Excuse Me While I Rant! On 9/11 and Other Numbers

This evening I read a note that Rick Steves posted on his public facebook page.  While I am a huge fan of Rick Steves and respet his work as an Travel Writer and Humanitarian, I think he missed the mark and landed short tonight.  Here is his note as posted on Facebook:

9/11 and Other Numbers (by Rick Steves)

This month we Americans — all 300 million of us — remember the tragic loss of 2,973 lives, when terrorists attacked our nation. In the more than 3,000 days since that terrible event, hardly a day has gone by when 9/11 hasn’t colored our response to what life has dealt us since. We have mourned together the loss of these innocent victims of this horrible act. And we have been reminded of the fragility and preciousness of each of those lives. I think it’s safe to say that the loss of these nearly 3,000 Americans has changed each of us in some way. And our collective response to the tragic event has changed us even more.

On this ninth anniversary of 9/11, as I remember our loss, I challenge myself to consider other human tragedies that have occurred since then — the loss of lives, the causes, the grief, and how they might have been avoided or minimized. I meditate on proportionality; on our response to each of these tragedies — and on how the desperation and suffering of the poor, dark, and dirty, uncovered by news media, plays out in our hearts.

In 2004, more 4,000 people — mostly civilians — died during the Second Battle of Fallujah in Iraq.

Each year since 2001, between 11,000 and 17,000 Americans have died in alcohol-caused car accidents.

Every day, more than 25,000 poor children die from diseases rich children don’t get.

Every year since 2001, an average of 30,000 Americans — most of them innocent victims — have been killed by firearms.

Since 2007, Mexico has lost more than 22,000 people to the war on drugs.

In 2010, an earthquake in Haiti killed nearly 230,000 people. In 2005 and 2008, earthquakes in northern Pakistan and China’s Sichuan Province took approximately 75,000 and 70,000 lives, respectively. These earthquakes likely would have caused far less death and destruction in lands with First World building codes.

In 2004, an estimated 230,000 people perished in the Indian Ocean tsunami. In 2008, more than 130,000 people died when a cyclone swept through Myanmar.

Since 2003, about 300,000 have been killed in Darfur.

Imagine the horror in little Honduras when Hurricane Mitch struck 12 years ago. Approximately 20% of that nation’s 7 million people were left homeless, while 70% of the country’s transportation infrastructure was demolished. Mudslides killed more than 6,000 people. In a horrifying instant that few of us here in the US even noticed, a land with 3% of our population lost more than double the people we did on 9/11.

As we remember 9/11, some might think it wrong to ponder how and why we pay attention to human tragedy near and far. I’ve been thinking about how good and caring people notice suffering selectively — by proximity or race or religion and how and why we respond to some and not to others.

I think of who the innocent victims were in New York on 9/11 and how their loved ones have grieved. Then I think of the loved ones who survived each of the other tragedies listed…and how they grieved. A New York office worker crushed in concrete…a Honduran family drowned in mud…an Iraqi child riddled with shrapnel…a Californian widow joining Mothers against Drunk Driving.

On this anniversary of 9/11 (as I try to ignore the sick media circus of Quran-burning threats), I think of those who lost loved ones on that terrible day. And I also can’t help but think of a million poor Afghan refugees barefoot and cold in tents just over the Pakistan border as another winter sets in — collateral suffering with barely an army blanket of compassion tossed their way. It’s a thoughtful time…I hope.

This was my response as posted in his Facebook comments:

Tsunami, Earthquake, even dare I say Drunken Driving… these things are not events that happen because of the hatred of one person toward another. Natural disaster and poor judgment are not the same as premeditated murder. My father in law was on board flight 77. Someone deliberately plunged the aircraft he was on into the Pentagon. Proportionately we may have not suffered the quantity of loss as other tragedies, but to say we suffer more or less than another is, well for lack of a better word, hurtful. I don’t know that personal loss can or should be compared. I lost my mother to cancer. 11 weeks and she was gone. It was every bit as devastating and painful, but completely different. I hope for peace. I hope for cultural understanding. I hope for compassion for all who have grief and are suffering at the hand of terrorism. At this 9 year mark I hope we as Americans can move forward by eliminating fear mongering and imperialism and realize that while we suffer from the heinous loss of 9/11, our loss is not ranked on a scale of 1-10 among the other horrible loss of our fellow humankind, it is not harder or easier than theirs, it is instead something that makes us one and the same. We all share in the human experience and create community when we “get to carry each other.” There is nothing wrong with acknowledging a day where Americans suffered as our citizens were murdered, but in turn we need to also give the same to others who have suffered and not put our loss on a pedestal and question why it could have happened to us. It happens to all of us.

Thanks for letting me let off a little steam!  After all, we’re all in this together!

It’s Gimmelwald not Grindelwald

For the past few weeks I have been watching a lot of travelogues and reading a lot of travel guidebooks.  Happily, I have reason to do this!  My husband, who is a professional musician, is going to be giving some concerts in Europe next summer.  Lucky for me, I will get to tag along and we’ll only have to pay for my portion of the expenses and any additional sightseeing we decide to do.  I’ve been very excited about this opportunity ever since it started shaping up at the end of the summer!

I know that this trip is still many months away, but I am a planner.  A planner with wanderlust…  I wouldn’t go as far as to say that I like to plan the trip as much as I like to take the trip, but I do like it.  A lot.  This trip will be taking us through Switzerland, so for the last few weeks I’ve spent much of my spare time watching anything on the region I can get my hands on.  (I like to start by watching travelogues and then read about what caught my eye.  Kinda’ like window shopping!)  Along the way I have made notes about Swiss towns and attractions that make the region we are going to be visiting special and unique.

One of the travelogues I enjoyed watching was made by Rick Steves.  He visited the exact region we are going to be visiting and I made tons of notes about all the interesting sights, train transportation, and the towns to see.  It was very exciting!   In my notes I wrote about how while watching the DVD, my husband and I really thought it would be neat to see a town I noted as “Grindelwald.”

We listened intently as Rick Steves toured this idyllic alpine town that is not even accessible by car.  I began looking for this charming town in the stack of guidebooks we have checked out from the library.  It was a surprise to find so much information on this remote little town in the Lauterbrunnen Valley.  I was delighted to find many options for accommodations in and around the community and went to bed a few nights ago sure that we had found the perfect little mountain hideaway to explore for a few days along our trip route.

This past weekend my husband made a trip to the bookstore to buy our own copy of the Rick Steves’ Switzerland book.  We often use his books to help us plan a sensibly priced vacation and have found he has lots of great advice.  I was eager to read what he had to say about the little gem of a community he showed on his documentary, the town that had me dreaming of a life in seclusion with fondue and chocolate.  I flipped to the section on the Berner Oberland and read with anticipation…

On a very neatly boxed couple of pages he gives a quick run down of the places and names in the Berner Oberland and what each has to offer.  This was the page where I came to understand that I had it all wrong!

There in the Rick Steves’ Switzerland book, on page 130, it was very plainly written, “Grindelwald: Expensive resort town, not to be confused with Gimmelwald.”  On the line before this he lists the town, “Gimmelwald,” and gives this description, “Wonderfully rustic time-warp village overlooking the Lauterbrunnen Valley; good home-base option.”


Well that changes everything!

Isn’t that just the way a faith journey can go?  So many times along my path in life, I’ve been busy making plans for a destination I only think I am interested in and it is only when I have paid close attention to my guide and my guidebook that I have been able to arrive at the destination my Guide intended.

I am finding myself at a new intersection again.  My son, my youngest child, is going to start Kindergarten next fall.  When he was born I felt a strong call to stay at home with him until he went to school.  I say call because over the past 5 years I have felt like my ministry has been to serve my family.  I have felt God guide me on that path over the last 5 years.  It has been a gift and I am so glad I’ve done it, but I see that huge intersection looming in the distance, and I’m a little weary.   Where do I go from here, straight ahead, stay on target?  Turn Right to Grad School?  Turn Left to the work force?  How ‘bout a U-Turn, this time to adoption and parenting a preschooler once more?  I want to make sure I’m looking at the map God has for me, listening to God’s divine voice as my travel guide.

My ears are open Lord…

Grindelwald seems nice...

Grindelwald seems nice...

but, it's not really Grimmelwald.

but, it's not really Gimmelwald.

(And in the end I think we’ll be staying in Lauterbrunnen!)