Thursday, November 21, 2013

Tacloban, Part I

--> I got an incredible opportunity recently to go to the typhoon disaster zone in the Philippines to help with relief efforts. The next few posts are going to be a series, things I wrote to kind of decompress after returning to my regular mission.

I saw a thing on the news today about the new Playstation 4 that just came out and how so many people are mad because of the glitches in the system (it was probably designed by the same people who designed Obamacare). I remember previous news bulletins about the gaming console when it was coming out in stores, and how people were waiting outside the stores hundreds deep, police had to be called in to keep order, riots happened, people got trampled on. Wasn’t it just a few years ago on black Friday a person got trampled to death in the mad rush through the door of a store?

Compare that to the people waiting on the tarmac of Tacloban Airport after the typhoon. There were literally thousands of them, most of whom had lost houses, family, possessions, and were without food or water. The temperature was in the 100’s and ranging between 80 and 90 percent humidity. Torrential showers tore through every couple of hours or so, and these people had no shelter other than umbrellas for the lucky ones, scraps of cardboard, bits of plastic bag, mom’s shirt, whatever they could get their hands on.
All of these scared, desperate people who had just lost everything. Did they trample anyone down? No. Not one person was directly injured by the crowd. Sure there were injuries from dehydration, hunger and sun exposure, but no one got trampled, or beaten down.
I remember one group of about 500 that I worked with for a day and a half, or thereabouts, before I could get them all on planes. During one plane loading I told them I could only take 40 people, but they pushed and shoved and squeezed so I ended up loading at least 60. There was supposed to be a group of 40 from another crowd loading after them, but they only got about 20 on the plane because half of their spots had been taken up by the first group.
After that I talked to one of the police who was helping direct that crowd and gave him a message to pass on. I said, “Everyone out here has been waiting and waiting for an airplane. Do you see that group over there? Half of them had to be turned away because we couldn’t wait our turn over here. I know you all want to get out now, but when I see healthy, strong grown men pushing little old ladies and women with babies out of the way to get on an airplane, that is just not right. That is wrong.” I told him to relay that to the crowd while I went to prepare the next group for the next airplane. He did, and I never had another problem with that crowd.
Do you think that appeal would have met with similar success directed at a black Friday crowd?
I don’t.

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