It's been less than a year and a half since Haiti was ravaged by four devastating storms - Fay, Gustav, Hanna and Ike, back to back to back to back. The images beamed from the scene were searing. Bodies piled on trucks to be carried to the morgue. Emaciated children and anguished adults, crowded into bare concrete shelters. Rubble, rubble everywhere.
Those images are back. They're worse.
Schools filled with children, hospitals filled with patients, halls of government and houses of worship, all leveled by the earthquake that rocked the Haitian capital of Port-au-Prince on Tuesday. Bodies stacked along the roadsides. People crying for food, for medical care, for help finding their loved ones.
We won't know for weeks, if ever, how many people were killed, how much damage was done to what was left of the poorest nation in the Western Hemisphere. For most of us, the scale of the disaster is incomprehensible anyway.
Haiti is home to 9 million people, roughly the same as Chicago's metro area. Officials fear 50,000 people, maybe more, were killed by the quake.
Haiti's vulnerability feeds on itself. Too poor to buy oil, Haitians have deforested the mountain slopes to make charcoal for their energy needs - destroying a natural defense against heavy tropical rains. The cycle of disaster grows ever shorter, so that Haitians have little time to rebuild and recover before their crops and homes are washed out again. And now, a monster earthquake.
We can almost understand how a 5-year-old or the Rev. Pat Robertson might conclude that some higher power is out to get Haiti. But the rest of us know better. We've seen the pictures, and we want to help. It can be as simple and spontaneous as sending a text message - the Red Cross has collected more than $4 million already via text.
You can write a check, organize a benefit, quit your job and volunteer for a boots-on-the-ground relief effort, or anything in between.
Haiti is a place of unrelenting misery and astonishing resilience. Despite generations of oppression by foreign governments and corrupt indigenous regimes, Haitians walked miles and stood in line for days to vote in the last national election. Time and again, they've rebuilt their homes in the wake of unimaginable destruction.
With help, they'll do it again.
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