Friday, March 11, 2011

Perspective Makes Incomprehensible Disaster 'Real'

This morning, as I rambled about the chaos that is my living room, I logged onto the computer to discover the horrifying situation in Japan: an earthquake with an 8.9 magnitude, followed by a tsunami, north of Tokyo.

With the rest of the world, I watched the video of a wall of water sweeping through the streets of Sendai, carrying debris with it.  I read news reports and tsunami watches across the Pacific, and I joined the world in being shocked and frightened for those in the midst of the natural disaster.

After a while, I inserted my mind back into my own life.  I kept an eye on reports, but I kept myself at a distance — until I caught a tweet from BuzzFeed: Maru is safe.

Anyone in the know in the cute-iverse has met Maru, an earnest, sweet-faced cat whose "owner" loves that cat with an obsession every cat lover wishes to emulate.  Maru's blog is filled with photos, video, stories about the cat's happy life in Japan.

Maru is safe.  Now I can cry.

Humans — okay, I have difficulty comprehending the magnitude, the horror of a situation, without perspective.  When the Twin Towers fell on September 11, 2001, in New York City, people watched in horror at the footage of the enormous buildings collapsing, the dust cloud billowing out from its base.  I was one of those people, and I can still remember my disbelief at what I saw.

However, it wasn't real for me until I saw the people: covered with dust, running for their lives.  I cried at the Newseum exhibit: at a broken camera found in the debris of the second tower — and the knowledge that its owner, journalist William Biggart, wasn't.  It's real to me when it's real to someone.

Maru is real to someone, and Maru is safe.  Many others are not.  It's not "just" a wall of water, but the people whose lives are swept up into it.  The unimaginable earthquake and the resulting tsunami happened to people whose lives never will be the same.  It is more than a news story: it is the life story of many — and so very, very real for us all.

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