My thoughts today are with "my countrymen" (this is what "mga kababayan ko" means in Tagalog, the language in the Philippines.) No, the Philippines isn't my home country, but I did live there for 15 months. It feels a little bit like this catastrophic flooding has happened in my hometown. I walked those streets that were under several feet of water and are now laden with thick mud. Many of my Filipino friends' Facebook pages are devoted to recruiting help for the cleanup effort: requests for money, supplies, even rubber life rafts.
I think God gave me an extremely strong sense of empathy. It's very hard for me to separate myself from the tragedies that other people endure. Especially when I see pictures on the web, like the one I saw yesterday, of a man carrying the lifeless body of a child out of the mud. Absolutely gut-wrenching, especially for a mom.
There are other catastrophes from years past that have stayed with me as well. September 11, of course. Who will ever forget September 11? For many years, I had dreams that I was witnessing another terrorist attack, watching another plane smash into a building full of people. I cannot go into a crowded area without thinking, "What would happen if we all had to make a quick escape?" I especially had to beat down feelings of claustrophobia when I was in downtown Chicago: "If something bad happened, how would I get out of here?"
I still have occasional dreams about the December 26, 2004 tsunami in Indonesia. In my dreams, I can see the flood waters fast approaching and I'm thinking ahead to my best plan of escape. That horrible event claimed an unthinkable 160,000 lives.
Every day, I drive over a bridge on the way to and from school. After I drop my kids off, the bridge is usually a little more congested with traffic going toward downtown for the workday. I am usually at a stand-still on the bridge at some point. And every single day, I think of the bridge collapse in Minnesota.
Sometimes I wonder if I'm excessively fearful or morbid in my thoughts, but then I think, I'm probably just human.