There is no Olympics of tragedy nor is there value in engaging in comparative suffering. Nevertheless, if we were to look at the earthquakes in Chile and Haiti, an exercise in triage is underway and the work is undone.
The Feb. 27 Chile earthquake registered 8.8 on the Richter scale and was the eighth largest in recorded history.
The January 12 earthquake in Haiti registered much lower, at 7.0 on the scale, yet the suffering, leave out the numbers, appears to never end. In Chile the government is totaling damage reports and checking the wine crop. In Haiti, international agencies face the rainy season, despair and misery.
The difference of course is development. Haiti needs building, more than rebuilding, rescue not just from the earthquake, but from a tragedy that spans generations – a mostly human-made disaster.
On the human dignity scale, Haiti ranks high. Every day, there’s a story about beauty and grace amid the ruins. There’s the story in the New York Times about Beken, the Haitian musician living in the ruins.
The Boston-based relief group, Partners in Health, is the subject of a video worth watching; it offers a look at how the rescuers are drawn close to the victims as they work to save lives.
The heart of the message is a blog by Lisa Armstrong for the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting, who says that for the rescuers in Haiti “there is no us and them, only we.”
Armstrong’s phrase is a good mantra for considering Haiti and the aftermath of what Haitians refer to simply as the catastrophe. She reminds us that the suffering cannot be forgotten and the rescue mission should be the responsibility of all governments and all people.
- Peter Eisner
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