Feb. 11th, 2009

Aftermath

Feb. 11th, 2009 07:40 am
katiefoolery: (Olivier is peerless)
So now we deal with the aftermath, I guess.  We look after the thousands of homeless; we hold out hopes for those still missing; we console those who lost loved ones, family, friends, pets, livelihoods and houses.

And we completely fail to take in the magnitude of this disaster.  It is a disaster - officially, Australia's worst natural disaster in the history of European settlement.  One hundred and seventy-three people are dead.  Many more are missing.  Almost one thousand properties are completely destroyed and it's estimated that over five thousand people are homeless and living in emergency relief centres - in schools and town halls, where they share their space with people in the same situation and where the air is filled with grief and hope and desperation.

In my safe little place, I find myself grateful for everything.  Last night, after I went for a run, I was grateful for the fact that I had a shower, shampoo, soap... that I had a house in which to keep all of these things.  I'm grateful for feeling cold.  I'm grateful that I've been able to brush my teeth every day and wear a different set of clothes.

And I keep relating it to me, which is probably the most selfish thing of all.  But I can't help it.  When my home town came on the news, the reporter said something like "And the worst hit area was Steels Creek Road".  Well, guess which road I used to live on? It’s a long a beautiful road, leading from the edge of town right into genuine bush – isolation and towering gums, a road with crumbling edges, where trees crowd up against you as you travel along it. I was the first stop on the bus route and I spent six years watching the trees go past on the hour-long trip to school. It’s surely blackened and ruined now.

Almost lifeless.

The Age printed a map this morning, which I scanned.  It shows the areas burnt out by the fire (and the number of people killed, which is still hard to take in).  There's another of those handy arrows, pointing pretty much directly at the place where you could expect to find the house in which I grew up.  I hope it's just the land that's been burnt there.  I hope the house is still standing and that the people who live there now are OK.

Copyright 2009 The Age


The Age has a section dedicated to the bushfires here, but here are a few articles that are significant for me: Skyline Road’s Panorama of Obliteration (Skyline Road runs parallel with the road I used to live on); Bushfire Recovery (photos of the aftermath, many from the road I lived on); I Now Understand the word “Firestorm" (quite a moving survivor’s story; a little graphic, though – be warned).

And I also have a little gallery of pictures – some taken from The Age website and some from a family friend who still lives in Yarra Glen. I want to know if my ugly old town’s OK. I want to know that people still have homes there – that they’re going to stay, no matter what. I want to know if there’s hope amidst the misery of the aftermath.

Then I have to ask, What can you do for people who’ve lost everything? I guess the answer to that is: everything. That’s pretty much what you need if you have no house, no clothes, no nothing. The Red Cross is running an appeal and are asking people to be patient when it comes to donating blood. They can only deal with so many people at once. The Salvation Army is also taking donations for the victims.

And people are finding their own ways to contribute. [livejournal.com profile] mawaridi, for instance, is donating all proceeds from her Etsy store to the appeal.

As for me, I still haven’t worked out what I want to do. All I know is that I want to do something. Sure, I’ll be going through my house this weekend and donating every single thing I don’t really need. I’m going to try to get over my squeamishness and donate blood. And I’d give money, but it doesn’t seem like enough. Although money’s very helpful, obviously, I just want to give something more.

I want to do something more.

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