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Sobering Florida images pale with reality of Haiti tragedy

The garden walk is a sorry one these days, a humble path dotted with casualties left since Mother Nature swooped in and changed our tropical landscape with her frosty breath.

The hibiscus bushes, once green and flourishing with apricot colored blossoms, are brown and wilted.

The bougainvillea is dropping leaves in rapid fashion and has lost its crimson blush. The croton plants are done for. Basil, too. And the long strip of purple and white lantana that borders the front yard? That will be salvageable even though it's just one big swath of black right now, save for the occasional pockets of new lilac blooms.

Horticultural triage.

Small potatoes — all of it.

Especially when you think of the toll being taken just south of us since Mother Nature shifted the inner Earth some 6 miles down and crumpled the Haitian landscape last week.

Nothing like a real natural disaster to get you looking beyond your own back yard.

Countless wounded.

About 1.5 million rendered homeless.

An estimated 200,000 dead …so far.

This little republic has captured our attention as the cause de jour.

Really — how many of us knew before Jan. 12 that Haiti is ranked as the poorest country in the western hemisphere?

Our newfound compassion makes us want to help. Maybe we open our wallets or support our kids' school efforts to collect gently-used shoes to be sent there. We pray. We do what we can.

Will it ever be enough?

Life in Haiti was pretty dire before. Now it's just one big swath of anguished suffering, tempered somewhat by occasional pockets of joy.

Piles of bodies being bulldozed into mass graves. A 1-month-old pulled unscathed from the rubble a full seven days out. The walking wounded marking out tiny lots in an open field to patch together makeshift tents for shelter. A woman's lilting song of gratification after finally making it to the front of the line to fill her bucket of water for the first time in five days. A doctor's pleas for medical supplies so they can stave off infections and get to the 70 amputations that need to be done that day.

It is a sobering shakeup for us as we absorb these heart-wrenching images and sound-bites beamed to us in the comfort of our own homes via the 24-hour news cycle.

Even so, we see but a speck of what's happening there.

Modern technology — even the high def/high speed kind — cannot begin to capture the vastness that can only be seen with the naked eye. Anyone who has ever stood on the edge of the Grand Canyon can understand that.

And so this epic tragedy becomes unfathomable for the distant, casual viewer who has the good fortune to be able to shut it all out at will, to take a garden stroll.

Michele Miller can be reached at miller@sptimes.com or at (727) 869-6251.

Sobering Florida images pale with reality of Haiti tragedy 01/20/10 [Last modified: Wednesday, January 20, 2010 8:25pm]
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