05 September 2005

It's the little things that get through

It's the small things that get through to you. However large the scale of catastrophe, disaster is always small, personal, human sized.

Today I heard a man evacuated from New Orleans cry as he talked of his worry for his two missing children. It's not that they may be dead; he last saw them when they were lifted away from the roof of his flood bound home by a helicopter. He knows that they were rescued from the immediate physical danger, but his voice was desperate with worry.

Long ago, in another galaxy, I once lost track of two children for a few days. The circumstances weren't the same, but there were similarities. After a period of risk, in a period of social disorder, the children were separated from me by the same event that removed the immediate hazards. I spent three days stuck in a building which was a tiny microcosm of the Superdome, then tried to find them.

Those children were nothing to do with me. They were the grandchildren of a neighbour; one I knew only slightly and the other I had met only on the day when chance placed him in my care. Yet in the days until I located them, safe and sound, I was more frantic, driven and unbalanced than any other time in my life. I cannot begin to imagine how it would be if they were my own children, as they are for that man. It makes a bigger impact than all the bodies, all the smashed and flooded homes, in the world.

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