Disasters can bring out the extraordinary in all of us
“Perceptions” by Gerry Warner
The death toll from the 6.2 earthquake that hit the Italian agricultural town of Amatrice a week ago is close to 300 and the only thing known for sure is that it won’t be the last quake to hit Italy or much of the rest of the world as well.
However, one thing known for sure is no matter where the next quake strikes one of the first aid agencies on the scene will be ShelterBox Canada, part of the global ShelterBox network and an official partner of Rotary Canada.
And thank God for that!
It takes little imagination to picture what it must be like when a major tremor hits. I felt one in Vancouver once and even though it did no real damage the eeriest thing about it was the sound which was like a big truck or a train going by and I was in a noisy pub at the time.
In 2001, Spokane, Washington experienced an “earthquake storm,” some 75 tremblors from May to November and although damage was minor a woman who worked in a downtown tower told American Press, “We’ve felt every single one of them. The building doesn’t sway. It jumps.” Others talked about “booming sounds.”
Earthquake “storms” in nearby Spokane go to show quakes can happen almost anywhere and the day may well come when ShelterBox tents appear close to home especially the Lower Mainland where the “Big One” is a virtual certainty. That’s why as a Rotarian I chose to become involved in the ShelterBox disaster aid agency, and also being a cyclist, I will be riding in the Kootenay Rockies Gran Fondo Sept. 10 and taking pledges for the ShelterBox program.
As a retiree of a certain age, a septuagenarian actually, I will be riding in the 58 km “Piccolo” event, which runs from the St. Eugene Mission to Kimberley and back along the North Star Trail and any amount per km you want to pledge, or just a specific donation regardless of kilometers, will be gratefully accepted. Donations can be made online at: www.shelterboxcanada.org or by calling 1-855-875-4661 or by mailing a cheque made out to ShelterBox Canada at 159 Jane Street, Office 2, Toronto, Ontario M6S 3Y8. However you decide to do it, I’d greatly appreciate if you’d call me at (250) 489-3271 or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org so I can track the amount raised and give you a personal thank you and arrange a charitable receipt for all cheques of $20 or more.
I feel strongly about this because many of the natural disasters that plague humankind – be they earthquakes, floods, hurricanes or landslides – happen in Third World countries where search and rescue teams are sparse or non-existent and infrastructure so limited that often more people die in the aftermath of the disaster than the catastrophe itself.
Fire and disease are two of the biggest post-disaster killers because drinking water gets contaminated or is unobtainable and fire crews, if any, can do little without water. In the great 8.2 magnitude San Francisco quake of 1906 more than 700 died and 225,000 were left homeless out of a total population of 400,000. Property damage in 1906 dollars was over $400 million, which would be many billions in today’s dollars.
This is why ShelterBox tents that can sleep up to 10 and the supplies that come with them – portable stoves, cooking utensils, tools, blankets, water purification tablets and even activity kits for children – are so valuable in the immediate aftermath of a quake. Like the so-called “Golden Hour” paramedics have to save the life of a trauma victim there’s a limited period of time in which to save disaster victims before the odds of them surviving plummet.
“Bad things happen in the world, like war, natural disasters, disease, but out of these situations arise stories of ordinary people doing extraordinary things,” says former CNN news anchor Daryn Kagan, who covered many disaster stories.
That’s what ShelterBox supporters are – ordinary people doing extraordinary things. And you can be one.
Gerry Warner is a retired journalist and a member of the Cranbrook Sunrise Rotary Club, an official partner of ShelterBox Canada.