Oso, Washington is us

Posted on Updated on

Malaysia Airlines flight 370 is us.

Vacaville People on Bridge
Painting by artist, Mary Riesche

What these two disasters and many like them have in common is that billions of us can say that they didn’t happen to us.  I live in a suburb of Seattle, approximately 60 miles south of Oso, Washington – the town that was buried by a landslide that killed at least twenty four people as of this writing.  This landslide didn’t physically happen to my town of Redmond, Washington, but it did happen to us.

The crash of Malaysia Airlines flight 370 took the lives of 239 people and affected thousands of people who lost one of the 239.  This crash appears to have happened over the Indian Ocean, many, many miles away from where you and I live, and most of us can say that we weren’t connected to any of those victims, but we would be wrong, because that crash happened to you and me as well.

I don’t take comfort in the fact that so many of the disasters that occur in the world haven’t personally or physically happened to me.  There is no distinct separation between me and those pointedly affected by the tragedy that has inserted itself into their lives;  no safety shield between my location, and theirs.  They are me, and I am them.

It is far too easy to sit comfortably at home and simply be grateful that such tragedies didn’t directly happen to me.  You know that saying, “There but for the grace of God go I.”  I think the intent of that statement is well-meaning but it must be said and felt purposefully so that we truly recognize that another misfortune, at another time, could be our own.  All of us are vulnerable, and we are all connected.  What happens elsewhere, happens to us.

The reason for this article is to express my hope that all of us, wherever and whomever we are, may more readily and clearly identify with all of humanity: the “them” or “they” to whom tragedies befall.

Empathy trumps distance, nationality, or circumstances.


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