Friday, March 11, 2011

Tragedy and Devastation.

I meant to write to you telling about my post at And Nobody Told Me - but this is what came out instead. The post over there is about worrying...and today I am worrying about much bigger things than my healthy, happy and very lucky family. Be well and safe my, friends. xoxoxmahreen

I will never forget December 26th, 2004.

Yousuf and I were recovering from holiday overload at his grandparents house. We had been married for just two years, and we were still in that getting-to-know-your-family stage of our relationship. I had no earthly idea that Christmas was such a huge deal with his family until that year, and as we sat on a couch in the basement we reminded ourselves that even though cramming that amount of people into that small of a space probably restricted our airflow to the point of delirium, the POINT of it all was to share in our love.

We kept telling ourselves that as we hugged each other, alone, in the cool quiet.

We kept telling ourselves that as he reached for the remote.

We kept telling ourselves that as he flipped to the news channel.

And then everything changed.

We saw the images of the Indian Ocean tsunami as it hit the coastlines of Indonesia, Sri Lanka, Thailand. We saw houses and belongings and people being washed away. We sat up, bolt upright, holding hands. We looked at each other and looked back. Looked away again, trying to erase the tragedy...but of course we couldn't do that.

There are no words to describe that moment. Horror, loss, sadness, helplessness...nothing does that feeling any justice. It's like a gaping chasm in the pit of your stomach that you can't close up. We didn't know anyone there. We just felt their pain. I think the whole world felt it, in that moment.

We wandered upstairs...bewildered. We told his family what had happened. The television was turned on, and the shock began to register. They were calling it the largest tsunami in our planet's history. They were saying that the death toll would be in the hundreds of thousands. That countries were going to be devastated.

It was all true.

All of a sudden, the holidays had more meaning. More than the material blessings, we had been blessed with our family, in that house, all of us safe, in that moment. And we were blessed to not know loss. We were blessed with love. We all knew it.

The following day, I called my local chapter of the American Red Cross. And I thought I would have to beg them to volunteer, in any way that they needed me.

I was asked to come in the very next day, to help process donation checks. The response had been overwhelming, they said. But there wasn't enough staff to help out.

And so I did - and looking back, I think it made me feel a little less helpless. A little more connected. A little more human. I went in on evenings and came back early the next morning. I kept going back again and again, wandering between the offices, asking if there was something - anything that I could do. There was so much that I needed to be done...I just needed to step up and do it.

Today, as the news of another massive earthquake in Japan followed by tsunamis hitting at least 20 countries develops, I am struck by that same feeling of helplessness. And worry. I can't do anything but sit here and compulsively refresh my screen, searching for more news, more information. And I am hoping against hope that my friends in Hawaii and the West Coast are safe. That they stay safe.

I am so thankful for my family, for our safe little house and safe little world. We are so unbelievably lucky. We are so blessed. We have never had to suffer a tragedy like this. I hope that we never will. And yet, my thoughts keep going towards the suffering and devastated people in Japan, Hawaii, the west coast - all over the world, really. My thoughts are wandering further and further afield, spinning across and away, to where I can no longer hold them in check. I can't help it. I think about families and children and communities and countries. Devastated. Obliterated.

I can't stop the gaping chasm in the pit of my stomach from growing every time I see the images.

My thoughts are with all of you.

And my heart aches for you today.

* * * * * * * *
More information to be added here as I learn of ways you can help and find out more:

The American Red Cross:
Text REDCROSS to 90999 on your mobile phone to donate $10 to the Red Cross for Japanese earthquake relief. More info here: 

For inquiries concerning American citizens living in Japan:
U.S. Department of State, Office of Overseas Citizens Services at 1-888-407-4747 or 202 647-5225

For finding/disseminating information about those in Japan:
Google Person finder 2011 Japan Earthquake
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