Japan Tragedy Reminds Us We’re Human

Like everyone else I have been glued to the television and the web for information about the overwhelming tragedy in Japan.  Last Friday morning I jumped in my vehicle to drive to work and first heard the news on my radio.  When I heard “8.9” a lump formed in my throat and I knew right away there was a bad situation going on.  Then news of the tsunami followed by news of a nuclear emergency put me in a mood that I can’t quite describe.  I haven’t cared this much about a news story since 9/11 and the Princess Diana tragedy.  The reason I care so much is because of the incredible human story going on here.  The intensity of the suffering, the devastation and the incredible awe I feel in the presence of nature.

When things like this happen we can’t help but put things into perspective.  Looking at the footage available to us and seeing the utter human tragedy unfold makes us realize we are all a part of the same life on this planet.  Nations all over the world have their differences but when something of this magnitude strikes we are humbled and genuinely feel for those affected.  I sat in awe seeing the faces of those who felt the helplessness of their own situation, unsure of the fate of their loved ones, suffering from the realization of what just happened to their country and to their lives.

People in Japan know they live right on top of what is called the “ring of fire”.  They are used to feeling earthquakes under their feet and it’s something that takes up residence in the back of their minds every day.  They live and work every day knowing the possibility of a catastrophic event lurks everywhere.  Yet people go on with their daily lives.  Now they know their lives will never be the same again.  Will they leave?  Will they pick up and move their lives elsewhere?  I think not.  The Japanese people are a proud people.  They are strong and resilient.  In what experts are calling an event of unparalleled proportions, the people of Japan will stay and rebuild and that will take decades.  These people are vital to the world community.

If you take nature for granted you’re setting yourself up for a big fall one day.  The earth is changing and you can see it everywhere you look.  Events like this earthquake and tsunami are happening more frequently.  Flooding in the midwest, volcanic eruptions in Indonesia, violent storms across the planet are a reminder that we are nothing compared to the power of nature.  Man has known this for a long time, which is why we’ve been trying to harness that power.  Wind, water, and even seismic energy have been powering many cities and towns across the globe for years.  But humans are nothing when we try to stand in the way of the sheer power of nature.

I live on a river in a small town in Massachusetts.  Every spring we face the possibility of flooding.  Last spring we had record rainfall before the ground could thaw and we saw our river reach levels we’d never seen before.  It was interesting to look at, that’s for sure.  But when the water receded my wife (MDawg) and I went down to the river bank and saw the damage that our little river can do when the water rises above its banks.  If our little river can do that, then people need to take the raw power of a tsunami seriously.  You can do whatever you want in your life.  You can strive to be the top dawg at work, you can empower yourself to make a huge impact in your community, or you can work your butt off to be the best parent you can be.  But in the end, nature’s hand decides our fate.  Nature sets the rules and we have to live by them.

I think the most ethereal thing I saw was a local news broadcast on Friday night.  There was a plane that took off from Tokyo just a few hours before the earthquake struck.  The plane landed at Logan Airport in Boston and when those people got off the plane they were met by reporters.  They had no idea of what had happened, and when the reporters showed them video of the devastation their knees buckled and they stood there in a state of shock.  They cried, their jaws dropped open and they couldn’t believe what they were seeing.  Could you imagine that?  You leave your home on a normal day, land in America, step off the plane and then you look at that kind of thing? 

These are things we take for granted every day.  The simple things that are a constant in our lives like running water, electricity, having a place to live, knowing where your loved ones are and knowing they are safe.  Tragedies like this one should remind us we are all of the human family and we shouldn’t let things like religion, politics or region divide us.  I feel deeply for the people of Japan and I just wish I could do something to help them.  Something more than make a $15 donation.  If it were practical I’d leave my job and go there, get on the ground and help people.  Unfortunately my mortgage says I can’t just up and leave my job.  But at least in my heart I know I am human because I get sickened by what has happened and I wish I could help.

If you feel the same way, congratulations, you are a human, too.

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