I look a the pictures of Haiti, and think, ohmygod. Buildings flattened. Even the Palace crumbled, and I think, ohmygod, that’s going to be us.
I live in the San Gabriel Valley of California, in the heart of Southern California. The “Great One” that is always being talked about is predicted to occur near here. Our town has many FPR—Future Piles of Rubble as they are referred to by geologists—or Unreinfroced Masonry Buildings, as they are referred to by politicians. There are a total of 55 in the Valley. I work in a retrofitted URM, meaning it’s reinforced enough to hopefully withstand the quake, but we better evacuate quickly. Everyone in our building is supposed to have an emergency backpack, but few of us have filled it with what was suggested (flat, sturdy shoes, bandaids, water, rations). In our office, we have an emergency pack that includes rations, boxes of water, a portable toilet.
When a quake hit us in 2008, our living room cracked more. I have to wonder if our house, built in 1946 will withstand a big earthquake. I look at the houses in Port Au Prince and wonder, will our house look like those? Will anyone come to our aid? My husband is not worried. He says we will just drive north to Bakersfield where his family live, but what if the roads are out? We have some water and food at home, but is it enough? What if our house collapses? We’ll have to go to a shelter. Additionally, I work for local government so I’m required by law to serve as an emergency worker. I have a role in our Emergency Operations Center making sure paperwork gets completed to receive compensation from the State and Federal government for emergency related expenses. How can I leave my husband and children in a crisis? (I do get a pass from responding if my family is in danger, but if they are safe, I’m required to report).
I see the pictures of the children, the parents, the dead, the living in Haiti and think what will happen to us in Southern California? Will we be left with no aid like the victims of Katrina? Already I am reading comments from the internet on how we shouldn’t go help Haiti, that they deserve it, that we need to take care of our own. Of course, we didn’t take care of our own in Hurricane Katrina, but even then it was, “They should have gotten out” grr grr grr. People are so mean. Haiti is the poorest nation in the Western Hemisphere. They can’t take care of their own. Should we just let them die? 75 members of our local fire department are on their way to Haiti tonight. The Task force includes firefighters, engineers, doctors. We’ve sent supplies with them.
I can imagine the response when the “great one” hits Southern California: “Those people deserve it for living there.” “They should have moved out when they had the chance.” “we need to take care of our own.” grr grr grr. We hear it in every disaster. Someone freezes to death, or their house floods, or a tornado destroys it—everyone who is not involved in the disaster seem to blame the victims. Shouldn’t have lived in a flood plain. Shouldn’t have lived in Tornado Alley. Shouldn’t have lived where there’s snow. Shouldn’t live on the coast. Shouldn’t live in the mountains. Apparently, the only safe place is in the complainers home. They’re the only intelligent people, and everyone else deserves to DIE. grr grr grr.
I can’t go to Haiti to help, but I can send them supplies, money, food, compassion. I can volunteer here so more volunteers can go there. There are things we can do to help. And we must help or we’re not human.