Editorial | Haiti and Katrina

A disaster like the one in Haiti makes the irritants of our everyday life seem rather absurd. As as much as those things now seem silly, so it sometimes goes that we feel that any contribution we make is too small to make a difference. Luckily, Islanders are not easily deterred. Everyone from students to seniors are writing checks and raising money. We must be careful, however, where we send those funds. It is always best to stick with the tried and true: The Red Cross, Mercy Corps and World Vision are all safe choices.

Such disasters should serve to remind us of what is important. But life here at home gets in the way as the world lurches from one calamity to the next. Just a year ago, Islanders were still digging out of the effects of a 10-day snowstorm that cost the city $75,000. A week later, the Reporter covered the efforts of Islanders raising money for the people in Australia who were dealing with huge regional fires that destroyed whole towns. The unemployment rate here began to soar as the effects of the recession settled in. Youth Theatre Northwest and Mary Wayte Pool were in crisis. And we tire from watching the horror on television, the dead bodies in parking lots, the headlines about how much has been lost. We become immune.

And much is needed right here at home. February begins the giving season for Mercer Island. Several Island groups will begin to send out pleas for their organizations and causes. The Mercer Island Youth and Family Services ‘Giving from the Heart Breakfast’ is on the near horizon followed by the Boys & Girls Club phone-a-thon and the Mercer Island Schools Foundation breakfast. Other events follow: The Rotary Run, Relay for Life and Friends of the Library and so on. All excellent causes, but none can deliver food and water into the hands of people half a world away.

While we reach out to the Haitian people with our hopes, prayers and cash, we cannot be complacent. The Puget Sound region is more than due for a major earthquake. We live in a place with building codes, health care and emergency services. But we live on top of active fault zones. It seems reasonable to assume that we cannot ever be adequately prepared physically or emotionally for even a fraction of the destruction or loss of life happening in Haiti. And like our fellow citizens in New Orleans caught by Katrina, we cannot imagine we might have to wait for help to come.

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