Practicing Empathy

Monday, December 27 2004

I spent the last hour or so reading about the tsunamis that hit the coasts of the Indian Ocean, and I’m slowly beginning to understand the gravity of the situation. I’ve also thought a lot about why something like September 11th had such a greater hold over me than the destruction that the tsunamis caused.

On September 11th I saw things get destroyed that I had been to very recently prior to the destruction there. I’d stood on top of one of the the World Trade Center towers and had been floored by their massive size. I’d stood among tourists and locals around the base and fallen in love with Manhattan within days of being there. Seeing those buildings destroyed and seeing footage of places I knew and video of people who I felt like I knew having been in their city made it all very real.

I’ve never been to Sri Lanka or India, and while I’ve known people who have lived there and have family there now, making that sort of “real” connection I had with NYC is far more difficult. Reading first hand accounts is helping bridge that gap, and is helping motivate me to do what I can to ease the suffering of those hit by the disaster. Here are some of the things I found that have made an impact on how I feel about the situation:

‘I was being swept out to sea, I felt afraid, powerless’
The South-East Asia Earthquake and Tsunami
Wikipedia Entry (easily the most comprehensive)
Third of Dead Were Children (this stops me cold – seeing anyone grieve over a dead child hurts my heart more than anything I could ever describe).

This isn’t something I can ignore – the immediate death toll statistics are staggering, but as the days go on, it will surely rise due to the spread of disease, lack of clean water and food and basic medical care.