Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Tragedy on tragedy

Boy, I had a hard time getting to sleep last night...I stayed up till after two o'clock watching the hurricane coverage on CNN and it was disturbing. Really disturbing.

Jeanne Meserve, who I've seen a hundred times on CNN, had called in a report to Aaron Brown earlier in the evening, and they replayed it later. I've never heard a reporter so affected by a tragedy. Her voice was calm but you could hear the horror of what she'd seen that day as she tried to get through the report. You can listen to it here at CNN; click on the link to "watch an emotional account" which seems like a dumb way to describe it, but oh well. I thought she completely conveyed how horrible things are in New Orleans, and she did it in a very personal way.

I also saw a brief local New Orleans interview with a man who was wandering the streets with his two boys, disoriented and in shock. When he told the reporter that his house had broken in half and his wife had been swept away, the reporter burst into tears.

What made it hard for me to sleep was the thought of thousands of people trapped in their homes, in the dark, in the heat, pinned up in the attic with the water rising. The thought absolutely makes me sick--it's like all my worst nightmares come to life. What can you do but pray? Which I did.

I am not a tragedy junkie. I don't follow coverage of high-profile kidnappings and murders and their subsequent trials. Somehow it feels...unseemly...to receive infotainment from other people's nightmares. But when things like this happen--September 11, the Asian tsunami, hurricanes--it feels important to me to pay attention for a while. Not because there's much of anything I can do personally, but just to show respect, to show that it matters to me what happens to people. To prove it to myself if nothing else. And to pray. So often in life that's all you can do, and to me, sometimes, it feels terribly inadequate in the face of overwhelming catastrophe. I have to hope and believe that what I pray makes a difference somehow. I don't know.