There are a bunch of funny little episodes I have thought about sharing... and I even started writing about them. I was going to end the post with the following, but after writing it, I removed the funny little episodes. I'll post those later.
(photo from The Boston Globe)
For days, my heart has been in shreds in the pit of my stomach seeing the devastation in the south of Chile. This is my husband's country; this is where my kids' grandpa and aunts and uncles and cousins live; this is a country where I lived for years and will live again in a few months, a country I have traveled in extensively; it is a country that I love with heart and soul.
I cannot imagine the magnitude of this quake: the plates along a fault that collide, one going under the other at a rate of 3 inches per year, moved 3 feet in one night; most earthquakes last a matter of seconds and cause damage and destruction, this one lasted an eternal 3 minutes; it shook the earth so hard that NASA scientists believe it has shifted the Earth's axis and changed its rotation.
I cannot imagine what it was like in the coastal towns of the south, near the epicenter. After one of the worst quakes in a century, those who survived stumbled out of their homes. The electricity was gone, it was 3:34 in the morning when it struck. To live through that and know that it wasn't over yet. To leave everything you have except (hopefully) the people you love and start running for the hills, in the black of night as the tsunami waves start pounding your town.
The authorities made a colossal error thinking that there was no danger of a tsunami. Those who wisely didn't listen, made it to safety. Most of those who stayed were swept away. Some of the stories are haunting: the mother in her home, in pitch dark, with the cold pacific up to her neck, holding her daughter over her head telling her to be brave and they would survive; the bus of elderly retirees that were trying to escape, overtaken by the waves; the family, most of whom were miraculously not swept to sea because they were able to grab on to a shipping container that had been flung to shore on a wave; the mother who had to identify her son's body at a make-shift morgue. I am brought to tears daily.
The looting and chaos in the most affected areas is hard to see as well. It is easier to understand taking food, but ransacking homes and businesses seems needless. Many Chileans seem to be embarrassed that this is the behavior being portrayed by the media, but we have to recognize that there is a part of human nature, that when placed in catastrophic circumstances, leads to decisions like this (think of the riots during the Rodney King trials). I have also heard how people are rallying, coming together to put together truck-loads of goods which will be personally delivered, braving hours on broken highways and detours around fallen bridges.
It is hard to have such a tragedy hit so soon after the Haiti devastation, where the loss of life was just unimaginable and the piles of rubble so surreal. I think we are all on disaster overload, which makes it hard to want to make that emotional humanitarian connection.
While Chile fares better than Haiti in many respects for a variety of reasons, there is still tremendous damage. Nearly a thousand dead. An estimated 1.5 million left homeless. Chile has had a relatively strong economy for the past few decades and has made many advances in its infrastructure. But it is also a country with marked inequality and an enormous distance between rich and poor. The poorest have been the hardest hit, as in many natural disasters. Buildings will be repaired, roads will be rebuilt, bridges will once again reach across rivers, but there are people, who have lost everything. There is a great humanitarian need.
Please help in whatever ways you can. Here is a link of how you can help. If many people give even $10, a lot of money can be raised.
***For a donation-alternative, Kyle, a gringa-photographer married to a Chilean, living in Santiago, is donating 100% of profits from prints purchased from her Etsy site she created just for this purpose. You donate money and you get a great print.
(post-note: please cross your fingers that all the seismic activity does not activate any of the volcanoes in that region, there was one sputtering a few weeks ago... can you imagine????)