Thursday, January 14, 2010

Haiti & Florida – Trying to Connect in a Disaster

E. M. Forster -- "Only Connect"

”Comatose iguanas tumbled off trees. Countless native and exotic fish floated to the surface of ponds and estuaries. Manatees huddled at power plant outfalls. Sea turtles, seized by the cold, bobbed like beach balls. Even the elusive pythons, the tree-trunk-wide snakes that infest the Everglades, have slithered out of hiding to soak up the sun.”

This was the lead to an article in “The Palm Beach Post” today --Thursday, Jan,. 14—with the title “Exotic, Native Species Clobbered by Cold.”.

All of the front page of the paper was taken up with the disastrous earthquake in Haiti and the desperate attempts of Haitians living in Florida to get news of their loved ones. Seven of a group of 14 local students from Lynn University on a goodwill mission to Haiti have been accounted for but the other five students plus two professors are still missing. They were staying in the Hotel Montana outside Port-au-Prince, which collapsed with 300 people inside. Imagine what their parents and loved ones are going though as they try to obtain news from the disaster area.

God seems to be beginning 2010 with the kind of natural disasters that remind us how tenuous is existence and how randomly disaster can end lives. We can also stop to reflect on how spoiled we have become in this age of instant communication—always connected through texting, e-mail, cell phone, computer news.

On Sept. 11, 2001, on a boat near Santorini, Greece, we learned that a plane had hit the World Trade Center before the second plane hit. But all the parents on that boat who had children living in New York City spent the next three days trying to get through somehow by phone to learn their loved ones’ fate.

Just a few years before that, we didn’t have cell phones that could tell us how our children were when they were, for example, traveling through Europe on a EurRail Pass. I always ponder the plight of the parents of the immigrants who came to our country in the 19th century—including our Swedish, Norwegian, and Greek ancestors. Imagine the mothers saying good-bye and god-speed to their sons and daughters, knowing that they would probably never hear their child’s voice again.

Here in Florida, where we are visiting friends, the desperate attempts to learn news of the Haitian disaster seem particularly heartbreaking. Evidently phone and all other methods of sending news are down, and the only ones that work are Twitter and Facebook. Young computer experts are setting up social networking sites on Facebook to share news of who survived and who died. I don’t understand why Twitter still works in Haiti when phones and e-mail don’t, but perhaps one thing that will emerge from this tragedy is a lesson to us in how to communicate with each other in the 21st century when disaster strikes.

We all remember how, in September of 2001, cell phones became useless because of too much traffic (while cell phones and voice mail were used by the victims trapped within the buildings as the only way to say goodbye.)

While my kids constantly text each other and are grimly trying to teach me to do the same, I can barely manage to send a text and cannot seem to transfer my swift typing skills from the computer keyboard to my Blackberry with its itsy bitsy keys. But one of my resolutions had better be to perfect this skill before disaster renders my phone and e-mail lines useless.
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I apologize for letting my blog, A Rolling Crone, disappear from the blogosphere for the last few weeks. The pressure of the holidays—decorating, cooking, Christmas Cards, gift buying and wrapping, driving people here and there—coupled with the death of a member of our extended family-- have played havoc with our usual holiday routine and my plans to blog more frequently were the first to go. I have been scolded by my revered computer teacher, Andy Fish, and, considering that I will be returning to his classes in about a week, I will add to my list of resolutions for 2010 the following: I resolve to blog more frequently—ideally daily, ( but I don’t think I’ll ever make it)—And I further resolve to make my blogs a forum for the interests and concerns of women over sixty who are, like me, Rolling Crones. If you have any suggestions as to how I could best do this, please e-mail me at


Susan said...
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Susan said...


First, thanks for this new blog. For all of us, the situation is Haiti is overwhelming and unimaginable --and trumps pretty much anything else. When you look at the collapsed buildings, the tens of thousands of fatalities, and the desperation of the people, you wonder how the money and efforts of well-meaning people all over the world can really make much difference in the horrible situation. Yet, we can and must try to reach out in some meaningful way.

So whether you blog once a day or once a week or once a month, first you have to live in the world we are in and do what you need to each day. Despite what your computer teacher thinks, only you walk in your shoes and can decide how you spend precious minutes. As far as I'm concerned, this thoughtful blog deserves to be uppermost on your site for quite some time.

Try to make the most of your short time in Florida -- now that it's warmed up --and don't worry about blogging again until you have the time and desire.

Thanks again! Susan