Coping with news of disasters


I often wondered how those affected by disasters both natural and man made who survive the horrors and devastation and are now having to endure the pain and misery of losing loved ones and losing their homes and their possessions manage to go on with their lives. It seems so hard to comprehend how easy it is to lose everything in a split second of time. It takes years and even decades to build a life and to lose so much in the wake of disaster seems unreal. The sad reality is that it happens quite often and we have no control over it. Just reading today’s news about the earthquake in Haiti was very very sad and learning of the loss of life estimated to be in the hundreds of thousands in one of the poorest countries in the world is unfathomable.

We are witnesses to these tragedies and we live our lives dealing with our own worries and concerns and we are fortunate not to be directly involved in these tragedies but after a while you do become affected. How can you not? It just seems like one disaster after another. I remember the day after Christmas of 2004 hearing about and seeing the coverage on CNN of the Tsunamis that hit Indonesia after an Earthquake took place in the Indian Ocean with one of the largest magnitudes on record of over 9.0. The result were these immense tsunamis that caused so much death and destruction and took everything away that was in their paths. It was very sad seeing the reports and seeing the death toll rise and seeing the helplessness and shock of those who survived. It is just so unfair for those hit by these devastating tragedies and witnessing it from our part of the world where for the most part we are shielded and safe from such occurrences.

Another tragedy that was very difficult to witness in the news was the Hurricane Katrina, a category 5 hitting New Orleans in August 2005 that wreaked havoc and destruction when the levies failed and flooding occurred in most of the surrounding areas including the French quarter causing so much death and property damage and trapping so many people where some could only hold on for so long before succumbing to the rising flood waters. The human toll and property damage is still felt today and will be felt for many years to come. There were communities that were completely wiped out and even to this day they have not been able to rebuild. There have been many volunteers throughout the years that have made personal sacrifices to come to the aid of these suffering people and their communities to lend their support and help rebuild with their time, their labor, their expertise and their humanity.

Another Hurricane I remember back in the early 1990s that caused so much death and destruction was Hurricane Andrew which completely devastated the community of Homestead, Florida. It is the harsh realities and sobering truth that many people have to confront and it just seems like we just never know what can happen as we can try our best to be as prepared as we possibly can and it still won’t make a difference when nature clashes with uncontrollable force and people and property are at the epicenter.

I remember hearing of miracles within disasters such as the newborn babies at a hospital that survived a killer earthquake in Mexico City in 1985 after many days have passed and all were in good shape despite the death and destruction all around them. It was a happy moment in a very painful tragedy.

To be human is to have feelings and when you see tragic news reporting such devastation and loss of life just makes you realize how fragile we are as people and how vulnerable we are to nature’s fury.

We are not only beset with natural disasters but we are also vulnerable to man made disasters and deliberate acts of terror that shakes you to the core. Such a notable tragic deliberate act of calculated terror was the bombing by a former American soldier of the federal governmental building the Alfred P. Murrah building in Oklahoma City in 1994 where sadly hundreds of people perished including babies in the nursery.

Most notably was the terrorist attacks that took place on September 11, 2001 where we were taken by surprise as a collective people and shell shocked after what we witnessed on the tv as the news covered it as it was happening. We could not believe our eyes when we saw the after effect of a large commercial airliner hitting the first tower of the World Trade Center and news reports were first coming in. As the reports were coming in and the cameras rolling we saw a second plane heading straight for the second tower and our eyes seemed to deceive us as we thought this was videotape of the initial plane. When we realized this was live and it was the second tower we all as a nation were in shock and numb by what we just witnessed. All we could do was watch the unbelievable events unfold and just wonder why this was happening and who would cause such incomprehensible death and destruction. It was so tragic seeing people jumping from the burning buildings to their death and when we saw the towers start to fall it was such a sorrowful time as we looked in disbelief.

When we realized that the Pentagon was breached with a direct hit of an airliner also and we learned of a downed airliner in the fields of Pennsylvania too all we could do was to go home after witnessing something that we could never ever imagine and just hold our loved ones close to us and just cherish that we are alive and together. The news of these tragedies takes its toll and it does affect me and makes me worry for my family and the future for my son. When we brought our son into the world we wanted to assure him that he would grow up in a relatively safe place free from violence and uncertainty but that obviously is not reality given the times we live in.

Even my son knows of September 11 and he is affected by it and tunes out what happened that day but the news of it is all around us and every anniversary of the tragedy only reignites those painful images that we wish to forget but realize we never can and should never forget. We do however have to distance ourselves from it otherwise we will just be sad all the time and we can not live this way. We encounter our own losses within our families and that is painful enough.

We just have to try to pray and do whatever good we can and try our best to shield our children from these sad events and try to live our lives and never forget that life is unpredictable and anything can happen. We must live our lives to the fullest because we never know the future.

Edward D. Iannielli III

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