Thursday, January 14, 2010

Unmitigated Suffering

The news and images from Haiti are soul-wrenching, humbling.

We take daily life for granted. There is no other way to live---but it can all be swept away in a flash in any number of ways, from an earthquake or a flood to man-made catastrophes. I live on the Upper Upper West Side in Manhattan. The #1 subway line, which runs along Broadway, surfaces at 122 street, and the 125th street station is an elevated stop, the only one left in Manhattan. The line then descends back to a subway right after the station. Most people don’t know that the reason for this lone elevated stop is a fault line, right there, and the subway tunnel couldn’t be built through those unstable plates. The last significant earthquake in Manhattan was in 1884, a 5.2 magnitude event felt from Virginia to Maine. It’s not likely that there would be a significant quake in Gotham, but the fault is there, so it's not impossible. Do we have a plan if that happened?

The horror of Haiti now is that help itself is crippled. The world is trying to send food, water, doctors, and supplies, but the devastation is so complete the airports aren’t functioning and there isn’t enough power being generated.

Andrew Sullivan as usual has excellent, informative posts, and filmmaker Paul Haggis talks about Artist for Peace and Justice, an organization he founded a year ago to help funnel aid to the poorest Haitian communities and in support of Father Rick Frechette, who’s been working in Haiti for 22 years now in the slums of Port-au-Prince.