By Joan Cybil Yao November 13, 2013 at 2:17am I need to tell you: The typhoon was worse than any of us could ever have imagined. The Philippines receives 20+ typhoons every year; floods, landslides and partly-blown off roofs are par for the course. Believe me when I say we have never before seen the likes of Yolanda / Haiyan. I need to tell you: Everyday, I read the news and reports from the field, thinking we’ve reached the bottom of suffering and despair, only to find new depths. Just when I think my heart can’t break any further from the stories of loss and tragedy, something new turns up to break it all over again. I need to tell you about the bodies decomposing on tree branches, under piles of rubble from collapsed houses, in churches, on the sides of roads, wrapped in blankets or straw mats. I need to tell you that the news cameras cannot show their faces – features frozen in fear as they died. I need to tell you about the storm surge – the 6-meter wall of water that rose out of the sea, rushed several kilometers inland and crashed over every building and house by the coastline. You need to understand that our nation is made up of 7,107 islands; nearly everything is by the coastline. I need to tell you how the storm surge swept in and out four times during the typhoon. Imagine the tremendous force of the sea, surging forward, crushing walls and foundations – and then that same force, sucking everything back in with it. I need to tell you how children were pulled from their mothers’ arms; how people clung desperately to rooftops or tree branches as friends and neighbors sped by, drowning or screaming for help; how today, bodies are still washing up on shore. I need to tell you about the woman who had to bury 9 of her family members after the typhoon; about the man who lost 30 of his family members to the storm; about the husband and wife who lost their three daughters, and have only located the bodies of 2. I need to tell you about the man who told his wife to stay in their house because it would be safer there. He found her body after the waters had subsided, embracing their dead son with one arm, and clutching the rafters of their one-story home with the other. The water had risen too high. I need to tell you how the smell of death permeates the shattered cities and towns all along the Visayas islands. How relief workers cannot reach people quickly enough due to destroyed roads, airports, bridges. How even to this day, we do not know the full extent of the damage – communications are still down, particularly in the more remote islands and areas of the Visayas. I need you to understand how helpless we feel – how our boxes of mineral water, biscuits, candlesticks and matches seem like such a weak salve against the brutal violence that nature has unleashed upon our brothers and sisters. I need to tell you I am driven to distraction, wishing there were more I could do. *** At the same time, I need to tell you about the amazing NGOs, universities, corporations and individuals that launched into action immediately after the typhoon. I need to tell you about the telcos that worked around-the-clock to restore connectivity to at least the main hubs in the Visayas. I need to tell you about the large international NGOs that opened their websites for donations and began mobilizing relief services, the day after Haiyan struck. I need to tell you about the universities and schools that have launched various initiatives to raise funds and supplies for the victims; I need to tell you how, from 6am-12mn, there are students and volunteers tirelessly packing bag after bag of relief goods to be sent to the survivors. I need to tell you about the restaurants that have offered to donate their profits for this week to relief efforts; the shipping and transport companies that have offered to pick up and deliver relief goods for free; the various corporations and rich individuals that have made sizeable donations, even without public announcements. I need to tell you about the millions of OFWs whose hearts are bleeding for their countrymen right now; who are almost constantly monitoring the news and social networking sites for the latest developments; who are organizing fundraisers and benefit concerts for the victims and survivors back home. I need to tell you about the generosity of the whole world – millions of dollars in aid, military or medical support from the governments of the United States, UK, Japan, Australia, Canada, the European Union, and even our neighbors, South Korea, Indonesia, Singapore, Malaysia and Vietnam. A pair of young girls in the US set up a lemonade stand to “help typhoon families” – these acts of kindness give us so much comfort and hope during this tragic time. We are immeasurably grateful to be in your thoughts, prayers and hearts. I need to tell you about the Philippines’ negotiation team to this year’s UN Climate Talks in Warsaw, which is pleading with the global community to wake up to the effects of climate change and take preventative action, while there is still time. I echo the words of lead negotiator Yeb Sano, “If not us, then who? If not now, then when? If not here, then where?” I need to tell you about our government officials – yes, I know, some of them are corrupt, and yes, perhaps they have not handled this crisis as well as we would have hoped – but I need to tell you, there are good people in government. There are people who have slept very little since the typhoon hit; they have been coordinating aid efforts; they have been trying to fix roads, assess the damage, restore order, and channel goods/services to where they are needed most. They may not be doing a perfect job, but now cannot be the time to criticize them. They are our government officials, just like the people in the Visayas are our countrymen and women – we must help one another right now; the fingers we use to point blame are better used to pack relief goods or click on the “Donate” box. *** Finally, I need to tell you about Filipinos: We are a happy, easygoing people, who can find reasons to smile, sing and be grateful – even in the humblest of conditions, even in the direst of circumstances. We care a lot about family; that is why 10 million Filipinos spend years living far away from their loved ones, remitting money that will hopefully pay for better lives and futures back home. Most Filipinos don’t have much by means of material wealth, but we make up for it by sharing what we do have with one another. It will astound you, sometimes, how those with the least are the most willing to give the little that they do have. I recall visiting a Gawad Kalinga village once, where our hosts, a poor family living in a 16 sq.m. house, actually spent the little money they had to buy food to prepare lunch for us. This, when their family of four would normally subsist on just a pack of instant noodles and rice each day. When you hear the word Bayanihan (rooted in the word “Bayani”, which is Filipino for “hero”) this is what it means: Being a hero for one another. I can think of no better time for this than now. Published with the permission of Joan Cybil Yao, who says, " I wrote it mainly to process / express what I was feeling and thinking in light of this terrible tragedy."
The Lady in Number 6 is the world’s oldest survivor of Hitler’s holocaust. She is a lifelong pianist and musician and music has been the driving force in her life. Alice Herz-Somme reminds me of my Mother, Ethel Crook. Many things interested and enchanted her, including teaching music and raising her four children, raising and showing dogs, and riding horseback. But another part of her was entirely taken up with music. Always. In fact, when she was in a hospice facility, my son, Ron Simpson, recorded a number of his musical compositions and other music she loved, and used an iPod to play it to her in her last days. Music. What a magnificent gift. To the performer. Composer. Audience. There are so many facets to the world of music, but much of them come together in this story of Alice Herz-Somme. Here is the trailer to a movie that was made, The Lady in Number 6.
From my blog of 12 years ago:
My Cousin: My Brothers and Sisters
Tuesday, September 11, 2001. My beloved cousin, Rich Nielsen, died. Not in New York. Not in Washington, D.C. And not in Pennsylvania. Cancer cells had been attacking his brain for some time. He knew death was imminent.
The same day, thousands of others died in a number of terrorist attacks. One moment they embraced the promise of a clean, fresh day; the next, they were either dead or dying.
Within moments, people raced toward the disasters, committed to helping in any way possible. In New York, Police, firefighters, the military, and other entities and individuals rushed to help. Many of these people died, as well. Those who did not continued putting their lives at risk, desperately seeking any sign of life in the gray, sooty rubble.
Onlookers helped rescuers with no thought of return. Hospital and emergency personnel began caring for the wounded and dying. Nearby restaurants began giving food to the rescue crews. People nationwide began donating blood, money, even organs.
These murdered people were--in the broadest sense--my brothers and sisters. The rescue teams, anonymous people on the street, restaurant owners, police, firefighters, doctors, nurses, EMTs, and many others are also my brothers and sisters.
Those involved in the three rescue activities will live the rest of their lives with memories too horrible to bear. We must honor these people who put the needs of others ahead of their own, and in so doing paid a great price.
On September 11, many people died believing in freedom as a way of life. How can we not, then, as a country, fight for everyone's right to live in a country where freedom is essential?
Richard Boynton Nielsen's long, hard battle ended on September 11. His obituary will probably be lost in light of other events. The others who died that day in terrorist attacks didn't have a choice. The most significant obituaries the United States can write for these people will be reflected in its actions and resolve as a nation and as the leader of the free world.
Terrorists' evil acts can never destroy the resilience and courage of America's people, where we are all brothers and sisters. And the star-spangled banner forever shall wave o'er the land of the free and the home of the brave!
The week of June 18, 2001, my husband, Jack, and I visited my hometown of Bellingham, Washington. At that time, my brother, David Crook and sister-in-law Janet Crook lived in Bellingham. David and I grabbed our cameras and went tor a drive. The following is from my blog dated June 18, 2001.
As we drove through Nooksack, Everson, Sumas, and other hamlets, we found a few other pastoral scenes that included cows, but generally they were in a distant field. We decided to stop at a farm with a huge barn full of girl cows, and shoot some photos.
Not a bad idea, until we got out of the car. We were overwhelmed with the aroma of ammonia. I'd forgotten that cattle in barns do not have private lavatories. Deciding that this adventure would help clear my sinuses, we approached the barn, and David got a few good pictures. Not quite the same as seeing them grazing in a field, (see below but it was easier to see the beautiful markings.
Back on the road, we spent more time looking for bald eagles, and decided to head for Mt. Baker, one of the loveliest mountains in the Pacific Northwest. Our destination: Mt Baker Vista area, a nine-mile road just after the Glacier Ranger Station.
The winding two-lane road roams over numerous cheerful creeks, and sports a stopping point for hikers. Serious hikers. David and I continued up, stopping to shoot photos as clouds threatened to cover our view. We reached the top, and shot until the clouds kept their promise. Camp robbers (fluffy birds with no sense of fear or courtesy) live at the end of the road, and enjoyed entertaining us. They're officially called Gray Jays. One even hopped inside David's car. No food. Out it went.
The road to Mt Baker and Mt Shuksan snakes to the north of the two mountains. These two stately, yet very different, mountains are spectacular. You can't see Mt Shuksan until you are quite a bit east. It's snuggled in its own little niche near Mt Baker. In 1950 or so, our dad, Cal Crook, took the photo you see in this paragraph. Good photos of this area are difficult to come by, because you often can't determine whether or not clouds will cover the mountains until you are relatively close. It's a drive I recommend to anyone vacationing in the Bellingham area. Even if you don't see the mountains, you will luxuriate in rich, towering trees full of unusual birds, and a landscape dotted with the Nooksack River and many other waterways. Clean, fresh country. Especially nice in the summer.