Quake: It’s time for us to reach out
December 27, 2004
The shaky video and fragmentary breathless descriptions are like something from a disaster movie: giant waves appearing without warning, houses and trees swept away, tall hotels toppled. The world’s most powerful earthquake in four decades struck beneath the sea off the coast of Indonesia’s island of Sumatra, and the deadly consequences were felt across thousands of miles of coastline. Thousands have died – how many exactly will probably never be known.
“Thousands” of miles, “thousands” of deaths and injuries; such abstractions are almost impossible to grasp. But they stand for children whose families have disappeared, villages that have been washed away, breadwinners who will have lost their livelihoods. Coming the day after Christmas, when so many people around the world were gathered with families and celebrating blessings, the monster quake is a reminder of the unpredictability of nature and of fate. But it is also a reminder that fate alone does not determine who suffers from such tragedies. Poverty that forces millions to crowd into vulnerable areas and to live in flimsy housing also plays a role.
The coming hours and days may bring aftershocks and more tidal waves, and they will surely bring more details of loss and suffering. Malaysia, Sri Lanka, Indonesia, India, Thailand – these are countries with varying levels of development, but none is wealthy, all are democracies and all will need help. This is a moment for the United States, and for Americans, once again to reach out and offer as much assistance as we can muster.