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When Haiti Falls Apart: Making Sense of Mass Tragedy

When Haiti Falls Apart: Making Sense of Mass Tragedy

A little more than five years ago, I was on my honeymoon in Sri Lanka. It was a few days before Christmas and I was on a beach on the southern coast of the island trying, in my mind, to figure out how to change my return ticket home, so as to avoid Christmas in New York and spend just a few more days with this scrappy island nation. After doing some careful calculations in the sand with a stick, my wife and I deemed staying on another week as too costly and too inconvenient. At the time it felt like misfortune, a few days later it felt like nothing but good fortune and providence, as much of the country was cruelly shattered by a freak tsunami that left over 30,000 dead within miles of where I was vacationing.

What followed was a history of unimaginable tragedy that captured the compassion, as well as pity, of everyone on the planet. Unlike a terrorist attack, this was a calamity that could not be blamed on any one person, organization, or country even. It was a natural disaster that produced an inordinate amount of grief, sadness, and uncertainty in the world. We, as bystanders, were all left feeling profoundly sad, vulnerable, and strangely thankful for our relative safety.

Now five years later we are actively bearing witness to the developing tragedy that is Haiti in the aftermath of a devastating earthquake. Also a natural disaster that could not have been predicted nor entirely avoided, the Haiti earthquake shares with the 2004 tsunami a lot of the same characteristics: A generally poor or developing area, heavily populated, and ravaged by inconceivable catastrophe and death. However, not to overtly court controversy, but it cannot be overlooked (especially in the case of Haiti) that rampant corruption and boundless poverty did much to contribute to the grief and ultimate death toll (In Haiti the count is hovering somewhere around two-hundred thousand. In South Asia the tsunami killed about 230,000 people in 14 countries).

Haiti is decidedly the country that just can’t get a break. The country has fallen victim to just about every blight and impediment a developing nation could care to know (colonialism, famine, slavery, disease, political corruption, occupation, neglect, and global profiteering) and I know that had the infrastructure as well as the general well-being of the county was in place, we would have avoided the startling severity of this tragedy (to put it into perspective, the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake that hit the San Francisco Bay Area registered 7.0 on the Richter scale, comparable to the recent Haiti quake, and killed only sixty-three people instead of the hundreds of thousands).

As was my thought back in the winter of 2004, how are we to most importantly help allay the tremendous amount of pain that is the result of this unforeseen disaster, and how are we to process the immense amount of anguish and death that has occurred? There is no shortage of relief organizations out there (I am holding off on making personal recommendations regarding which ones deserve contributions as I think these things require some research and ultimately a personal choice) as well as benefits (Cupcakes for Haiti) and relief telethons and charities. Still, no matter how much money or time you have to devote the relief efforts, we still need to make sense of this for ourselves and obviously for our children. Do we just shake our heads and let the tears well up? Or do we confront the adversity of this situation with a different sort of resolve altogether?

Time to share some thoughts please.

Read more: Children, Family, Global Healing, News & Issues, Parenting at the Crossroads, , , , , , ,

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Eric Steinman

Eric Steinman is a freelance writer based in Rhinebeck, NY. He regularly writes about food, music, art, architecture, and culture and is a regular contributor to Bon Appétit among other publications.

104 comments

+ add your own
2:38AM PST on Nov 11, 2010

Thanks

2:46PM PST on Feb 25, 2010

BUILD RIGHT---DESTRUCTION WILL BE LESS!

8:38AM PST on Feb 24, 2010

thank you

11:59AM PST on Feb 22, 2010

this is a wonderful article...thanks!

10:03AM PST on Feb 17, 2010

Thank you to everyone for your comments as well as ideas about how to contend with the pain of a tragedy like this one. There may not be one singular answer to this sort of mass tragedy.

Regards,

Eric Steinman
Care2

8:46AM PST on Feb 12, 2010

The biggest nation in the Western Hemisphere kept these people poor. That nation is us. Now we need to make amends. We need to make every effort possible.

5:49AM PST on Feb 9, 2010

Excellent :)

Help Haiti in every way :)

These Actions, on Change.org, the urls :)

Help Haiti in everyway :)

http://globalhealth.change.org/actions/view/help_haiti_in_everyway

http://www.change.org/profile/189788/actions

reality

5:46AM PST on Feb 9, 2010

Less useless behavior like praying, and the realization that the only thing that will help humanity is other people and their actions; and long-term, helping the people of Haiti realize that their "salvation" is in their own hands, hearts and minds--not in any religious practice.

5:46AM PST on Feb 9, 2010

Less useless behavior like praying, and the realization that the only thing that will help humanity is other people and their actions; and long-term, helping the people of Haiti realize that their "salvation" is in their own hands, hearts and minds--not in any religious practice.

5:45AM PST on Feb 9, 2010

Less useless behavior like praying, and the realization that the only thing that will help humanity is other people and their actions; and long-term, helping the people of Haiti realize that their "salvation" is in their own hands, hearts and minds--not in any religious practice.

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Disclaimer: The views expressed above are solely those of the author and may not reflect those of
Care2, Inc., its employees or advertisers.

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if this is true, vote for her above any other candidate!!!!~ Warren 2016

Skin feels better when I do it

Good Afternoon and thank you for this article and the videos about yoga and stress during the holida…

interesting! thanks for posting!

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