Hazel McHaffie

Haiti earthquake

Shaking the Foundations

There’s nothing like a major disaster for putting things into perspective, is there?

Events in Haiti this past week have shown a tragedy on a scale beyond imagining. And they totally eclipse some of my current concerns – final editing of my forthcoming book; safety on the icy roads; wallpapering our staircase. When thousands of people are without homes or loved ones, water or medicines, why would anyone worry about a displaced comma or the style of an acronym? When whole communities lie in ruins, who cares if wallpaper is spirit-level straight? When people lie crushed beneath collapsed buildings, broken wrists and ankles seem like small fry. Yes, Haiti has had a profound impact.

It was the same with the Boxing Day tsunami, the collapse of the twin towers, the Lockerbie disaster, the Dunblane massacre … Overwhelming reactions. A compulsion to do something. Yes, we pledge money; prayers have a new earnestness; a few dedicated people may actually go to the danger zone to give their all; we set ourselves new priorities. But then … we move on, we return to our complacent lives, dwell on our own concerns, pursue our own trivial ambitions and dreams. Our species just can’t live their lives at such a peak of intensity. So I want to reflect before the spotlight fades.

Haiti has flicked the switch, but other things have happened during this past few days which have helped to focus the glare, and reminded me of important truths.

I’ve just made the very last correction to the final draft of Remember, Remember. The last vestiges of the snow are melting. And the staircase is finished. But the devastation of Haiti will reverberate for years. I hope its impact on me will last too.

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