This is not a political post, so everyone who planned to get mad and disagree with me can stand down.
Every night since the earthquake I’ve been watching the CBS Evening News with Katie Couric, which I often do anyway, but now I’m glued to it. I now refer to 6:30 P.M. EST as the Crying Hour. It’s only a 30 minute broadcast, but it takes me another 30 minutes to recover. And then I say to myself, aren’t you the compassionate one? You cry for an hour and you’re done until tomorrow. And that has helped…how?
The images on CBS News, which is not known for being sensational or particularly explicit, are horrific. Last night was the final straw, so to speak. A scene that will forever be burned into my brain and will always be the symbol of the earthquake for me. I was reminded of 9/11, when the incessant pictures of the planes flying into the buildings were not what stuck with me. It was the picture posted in the New York Times (they eventually took it down) of two people holding hands, jumping together from the 90th floor to their deaths. I didn’t sleep for a long time after seeing that.
In this case, Katie was visiting a makeshift hospital tent and came upon a 13 year old boy named Pierre, with a broken leg. Both his parents died in the quake. As Katie squatted down to talk to him, he grabbed her hands. Then the hospital personnel began to wrap his leg with what looked like nothing more than an Ace bandage. The boy began to cry and as the pain grew worse, Katie said, Just squeeze my hands. Eventually he began screaming, and what he said was, “Why, God, why?” I will see that little boy in my head for the rest of my life.
The hospital staff asked Katie if she could try to find a plastic cast for the boy as she traveled from site to site, and she did try. The answer was, We don’t have any either, and if we did, we would use them on our own patients.
It’s so difficult to see the faces of people suffering from injuries and hunger and thirst, knowing there are supplies and medical personnel at the airport but they just can’t get to the people in enough time. The help might as well be on the moon. I feel like we are watching people die in prime time. How cruel is it to survive the quake, then die anyway?
I feel guilty. I feel that I should be doing more. But realistically, I can’t do anything at all. Even if I were young enough and strong enough to go help physically, what the hell do I know? So I sit here helplessly. And that’s why Leonard Pitts, one of my favorite columnists, made me feel better with his post of January 14th entitled Cruel as it is, we somehow go on.
While I am not a religious person, a quote from his article struck home. Sometimes we really are helpless, which is not the same as being uncaring. You may substitute the word “Fate” or “Disaster”, but what Pitts said was, it’s like the playwright said: Your Arms Too Short To Box With God.