It’s always personal

Posted on March 13, 2011


Many years ago, in an effort to hang onto whatever language facility I had left, I watched the news programs on a worldwide Spanish language network.  That is how I learned the word terremoto.  Earthquake.  For days, weeks even, regular programming gave way to constant coverage of the earthquake in Mexico City.  There were stories about people trapped and people rescued, lives destroyed and redeemed.  Heroes and charlatans poured in to help or to take advantage.  International rescue teams brought high tech equipment and desperate relatives dug with their bare hands.  But the thing that touched me the most was the way that a local Los Angeles station kept reading messages on little scraps of paper – la familia Gutierrez está bien, Esteban Morales está bien . . . In the days before omnipresent social media, people who managed to get through to family members or neighbors would write down all the news they could gather and bring it into the station.  Ten thousand people died, millions lived, and in every single case, it was personal.

These toes belong to my friend Carol and my friend Chikako and my own self. 


Shortly after that photo was taken, the toes on the left returned to Japan to live in a sophisticated high-rise in Tokyo, where the appliances talk.  On Friday, after the earthquake, those toes found themselves away from home on business, and walked for hours in the dark through unfamiliar streets to get to a place to spend the night.  Today the blessed message . . . Chikako Suzuki is safe.  Her family is safe.  The trains are running again.  They grieve for the terrible losses in the north.  They will do what they can to help. 

Over in Greilickville Ayako Rowen was on the internet and on the phone all day, tracking down family members.  They are safe, blessedly safe.  But the images of the devastation and the count of the dead and missing are unimaginable to her. 

Kiwidutch, who visits Torch Lake Views often, has been writing about the second earthquake in Christchurch in six months.  Now, she writes, despite the ongoing work in Christchurch, one of New Zealand’s three specialist Urban Rescue Units (48 members strong)  is flying out to Japan today to be of assistance in the towns of the north eastern coast.  The team from Japan that came to Christchurch to assist in the work there, have (naturally) been released early for the urgent work now needed at home. That’s what I call International care and help… Christchurch Kiwi’s knew they weren’t alone, I hope that the people of Japan know that they aren’t either.

It’s personal.  And when we remember that, suddenly we’re all in this together.