We’re reminded every week — sometimes every day — how lucky we are to live in the North Country. The latest reminder is the unspeakable disaster in parts of the Philippine Islands and Vietnam.
A typhoon has roiled the seas surrounding the islands, causing them to rise up in devastating fury. Sustained winds of 150 mph, gusting to 175 mph, have turned the seas into graveyards.
The disaster is being called perhaps the worst in recorded history. Thousands of people are presumed dead. Many may never be accounted for.
In contrast, the worst natural disaster we’ve encountered in our corner of the world in many, many years is the Ice Storm of 1998. When it was all over, and the damage was assessed, three local people had died of carbon-monoxide poisoning from generators improperly employed, 100,000 people had lost power, farmers alone had absorbed $10 million in damage and lost production, and large sections of forests were decimated.
It was a terrible experience, to be sure. But, compared with what the Philippines and their neighbors are enduring, it was a snowstorm.
What the two do have in common is that brave, selfless Americans will be there to try to lighten the burden however they can.
In 1998, volunteers by the hundreds poured into the North Country to help local responders deliver food, provide comfort and make sure residents were secure while life-saving power was being restored.
In the Philippines, before the first wave hit the shore, plans for relief were already being hatched in the United States.
The United Nations relief organizations swung into action and so did the American Red Cross, Catholic Relief Services, the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, Mercy Corps and Americares.
Money was being raised and workers sent to the Philippines. More and more charitable organizations, churches and schools are joining relief efforts each day.
Some people think the United States should use its resources only for its own citizens, that we should turn our back on other countries in need. That would be a sad change for a nation that has always reached out to help. Our philanthropy and the extent to which we care are part of what makes us the greatest country in the world.
Our geography in northern New York provides us safe haven against most natural disasters — certainly against mass devastation the likes of which Southeast Asia is experiencing.
But geography is no barrier to sympathy and empathy. Americans will always come to the rescue, whether it be at home or far, far away.