I made the mistake of leaving my television on as I slept last night. And throughout the night the reports of the rescue and relief effort in the aftermath of the earthquake that has ravaged Haiti played, and subconsciously I guess that registered in my mind because several times during the night I got up and walked the length of the house to check on my two children as they slept.
And I felt comforted in knowing that they were alright. I felt comforted in knowing that in the morning they would arise to a hot meal. That both their parents would be there to greet them and wish them well as they departed for the school day. I felt comforted in knowing that except for some unforeseen catastrophe, their world would remain intact for the time being.
Perhaps because I have been a child, because at some time or another I have been hungry, I have been frightened, I have felt vulnerable, utterly helpless, in the face of those things seemingly out of my control, whenever I hear of a disaster such as Katrina, such as the earthquake and subsequent aftershocks in Haiti, in my mind I automatically think of the children. In my mind I automatically put myself in the place of the children.
But I wonder most about that first night. Did the children even get to sleep that first night? But how do you sleep with all that death and destruction and devastation around you? How do you sleep knowing that the world as you know it has suddenly been turned upside down? How do you sleep if a parent or a sibling or a beloved family member is missing and has not been heard from?
But most importantly, how do you close your eyes, how do you sleep, how do you seek repose when you are not sure of what the morning brings? When the only promise the morning holds is that the death, the destruction, the devastation of the night previous will step out of shadows only to be framed by the light of day. What you could only imagine was there, what you really would like to believe was simply a nightmare is only confirmed as real as the morning sun welcomes you to a new day of confusion, of chaos, of disbelief?
It is at this moment I understand my limitations as a human being. It is at this moment when I realize how fragile life really is. It is at this moment that I realize how short my arms really are, how restricted my sphere of influence because if I had my way, when I awoke in the middle of the night, after walking the length of the house and checking on my own children, I would have liked to keep on walking.
I would have liked to find my way from here to those hungry, frightened, bewildered children so that I might put my arms around them and calm them, and reassure them that soon everything would return to normal, or as normal as can be given what has transpired.
I would like to be there when exhaustion finally allowed them to sleep so that when they awake in the darkness, I can be there to comfort them and let them know that in the morning, we will begin rebuilding. We will begin anew. And soon when the morning comes, the horror of the moment will be all but forgotten, and the new day will be greeted again as a thing of promise and not simply as a continuance of a nightmare.