Thursday, January 14, 2010

We Are the World

The earthquake that plunged Haiti into darkness is another blow to a nation that has seen more than its share of misery.

My heart weeps for Haiti and her children.

The situation in Haiti has been so challenging for so many years, due to politics, poverty, prior natural disasters, etc. But this current situation is truly catastrophic.

Watching as Haitians piled bodies along the devastated streets of their capitol after the strongest earthquake in more than 200 years hit the poor Caribbean nation is almost more than I could bear.

And there was no discrimination – thousands of structures, from schools and shacks to the National Palace and the U.N. peacekeeping headquarters were crushed.

The devastation was so complete that it seemed likely the death toll could run well into the thousands – and I think that is a conservative estimate. Seeing the faces filled with pain and desperation, hearing the stories of unimaginable horror and hopelessness brought the same rush of feelings that I experienced during Hurricane Katrina.

At that time, I was hosting the morning show in Chicago, and we took call after call from people who were missing family members or friends and couldn't get in touch with them because of the power outage and downed phone lines. One in particular - Nate - was on the phone with his fiancée and three children when the water started to seep, then gush, into their home. This was Monday. The line went dead as he begged them to press towels under the door to stop the flow of water. He hasn't talked to them since. It broke my heart.

I remember the turmoil that we faced in 2004 when my mother was in Jamaica spending time with her mother, and Hurricane Ivan wreaked havoc on the islands of Barbados, St. Vincent and Grenada. It spared Jamaica its full fury, but it still destroyed homes and infrastructures and killed at least 16 people.

We were unable to reach my mom for two days. It was the longest two days of my life, but she made it home to her husband, two children and six grandchildren - not like the mother who begged her husband to just let her go so he could save her children. He doesn't know if she made it or not.

In light of the tragedy in New Orleans, a co-worker vowed to mend a relationship with his estranged father of more than 30 years who made it safely out of the city. And others have just vowed to reconnect with estranged family members or friends. Sometimes it takes destruction of this magnitude to make miracles happen.

The earthquake in Haiti has been estimated to be 10 times more devastating than Hurricane Katrina. But that allows for 10 times the blessings to flow from such a tragic situation.

The show will be traveling to Haiti today and will broadcast from Port-au-Prince tomorrow morning (Friday, Jan. 15th). Tom’s goal is to set up a communication center that would allow the Haitian community to contact their loved ones in the states and abroad to give them some assurances that they are okay.

My thoughts and prayers are continuously with the millions who could have so easily been you or I, and I can’t help but wonder how those who have been dealt such devastation can ever rest easy again. I'm not sure how any of us can.

It is time to go about the business of healing and rebuilding, not only at home but globally. And not just for the immediate, but long term.

We are our brother’s keeper, but we haven’t been taking very good care of each other.

Time after time we get reminders that we should not wait until a tragedy strikes to realize who's important to us and why. If you're blessed enough to be in reach of someone you love, let them know today. But it’s also time to start treating the world as family.

There may not be much that you can do to help in Haiti – even though I would stress that every little bit counts – but there are some situations in your own community, block and home that need help.

What change can you make today?

I challenge you to start an earthquake of your own. A good deed done today will send aftershocks for a long time to come.

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