Monday, March 14, 2011

What do we know?

I don't need to use a picture this time - the television world is filled with them.
Raging tidal floods - explosions in nuclear power plants - pictures of people not sure what the next day might bring. But they are pictures - what do we know about the agony that these people actual are enduring?

I remember seeing the pictures of New Orleans during the horror of Hurricane Katrina. I could sense - from the pictures and videos - a superficial idea of how bad it had been - but I could not grasp the enormity of that event. I got at least a feel for how bad it was when I drove through Gulfport and Biloxi, Mississippi a year or so after Katrina. I could see, with my own eyes, gutted churches and businesses.
I could see the slabs where homes had stood along the beach - I saw a restaurant sign that was all that remained of one of our favorite places to eat. I could remember what it had been like from when I was in the Air Force in Biloxi and when our daughter Amy and family had lived in Gulfport. But, in truth, I could not really grasp the horror that the Gulf Coast had contended with. I saw the church I was baptized in still saturated with water and close to being relocated because it was too damaged to repair.

I remember seeing the World Trade Center from New York Harbor a few short months before thousands died in a horrible attack on our country. But I could not - despite video and photographs - even begin to grasp the horror of September 11th, 2001. It was impossible - IS impossible - for anyone to really feel the depths of horror - unless one is physically present when a disaster occurs.

Years ago, when we lived in Rantoul, Illinois, I could not understand why Joyce, one day, did not pick me up from work. I waited, and waited for her to show up and I became more and more frustrated by her non-arrival. Finally, angry, I hitchhiked out of town a few miles to where we lived in a trailer park. Once there I began to understand - a tornado had gone through the area while I was at work. Joyce saw it coming across a corn field and, not having a storm cellar, she took the children into a room in the middle of the trailer and cringed, with the children, till the storm had passed. Amazingly, the tornado lifted off the ground just before the park and dropped down on the other side of the road. The only damage to our home was a fuel tank lifted and dropped some distance away. Others in the park had limbs from trees forced into their homes.

Meanwhile, I was fuming and fussing a few miles away because she hadn't come to pick me up. I didn't realize then, nor can I fully realize now, what a frightful experience they had endured. Which just goes to show - we often miss the real intensity and horror of things that happen if we aren't actually there ourselves.
My moment of frustration and pique was simply because I hadn't actually endured
what happened - and that's what happens with a lot of us.

So, this week we are thinking about a Japanese exchange student who was part of our family for a year. We pray the best for her and all the other people in Japan.
Though most might not be directly impacted by the catastrophe, a whole nation is impacted. And it has become more personal.

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