Wednesday, January 05, 2005


A Human Face to Disaster

I am sure these stories could be told over and over:

The grimy 10-rupee bill is worth 25 cents. It has been folded several times so that it's small enough to hide in the clenched fist of a 3-year-old girl.

Sitalakshmi won't let go of it. For more than a week now, since the day of the killer waves, she has held the pittance tight in her tiny hand, as if her life depends on it.

The girl's mother gave it to her on the morning of Dec. 26 to keep her from crying. It was the last time she would soothe her daughter that way. Now the greasy banknote has become the child's hold on the way things used to be.

"She even sleeps with it," said Sister Neeta George, one of the nuns who run the basement orphanage where Sitalakshmi lives in the Missionaries of Charity convent, founded by Mother Teresa of Calcutta.

The waves that hammered India's remote Andaman and Nicobar Islands killed the girl's mother, father and three of her brothers.

Only she and her 14-year-old brother, Balamurugan Kannan, survived.

With the courage of a man, a boy not much taller than 4 feet and weighing less than 80 pounds swept his little sister up in his arms and ran hard for higher ground.

His mother and father and three older brothers couldn't outrun the waves. Like most of those killed here in the Andaman archipelago, about 700 miles east of the Indian mainland, their bodies may never be found.

All over the world, there are things like this. Diaster, man's wickedness to our fellow man, bad luck - lives forever shattered. Don't think of them as statistics. They could be you and yours.

Think about your actions. Is your impact helping or hurting? Are you part of the solution or part of the problem?

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