Wow. If Hollywood had thought of this first we would have dismissed the whole thing as being too preposterous for even Hollywood. But this is not the latest disaster flick. This is a real life catastrophic situation affecting real people. What was that old ’40s movie — “Naked City?” Remember the tagline? “There are 8 million stories in the Naked City.”
There will be a lot more stories than that in Japan once the situation is resolved. And it will be resolved, one way or another.
Think about what has happened over the past week. First the Mother of All Earthquakes hit that island nation. The first report was that the quake was magnitude 7.3. Later the event was upgraded to an 8.9, and again to a 9.0. Now a 9.0 is not just a little worse than an 8.9. It is exponentially worse.
Have you looked at the before-and-after satellite images of the affected area? Unbelievable. The before images show cities and suburban areas. You can pick out the swimming pools behind houses just like you can when you are in an airplane on a landing approach over an Atlanta neighborhood.
In the after images you can’t see a single brick or stone on top of another brick or stone.
We have no idea how many people were crushed when those buildings fell on top of them. We don’t know how many children became orphans. We don’t know how many women became widows or how many entire families ceased to exist when the earth began to rip apart below their feet.
We may never know, because the monumental earthquake spawned a gigantic tsunami. Shortly after the earth stopped trembling, the ocean receded from the beaches east of Honshu — the epicenter — and then the ocean swept over the coastal region, washing away everything in its path, causing even more death and destruction.
In one town, 10,000 people are still listed as missing.
It sounds like a disaster movie, doesn’t it? One of the worst earthquakes on record followed by one of the worst tidal waves on record. All we need is Morgan Freeman standing on the high ground somewhere promising that everything will be OK and that the nation will rebuild, stronger than ever.
But for the past week, we in this country have paid every little attention, collectively, to the aftermath of those two natural disasters. Our eyes and ears have been glued to the news, to be sure, but most of the coverage has been aimed at the third stage of the 2011 catastrophe trifecta.
The earthquake and tsunami, as we all know by now, led to a major disaster at the Fukushima nuclear plant, and the entire world is watching, hoping against hope that the brave workers who are putting their own lives on the line can figure out a way to prevent a total Chernobyl-type meltdown that might put enough radiation into the air to affect people over a very wide radius.
Like I said at the top of the column — wow!
Predictably, the events in Asia have caused a tremendous amount of conversation in our part of the world. We “tsk, tsk” and shake our heads and ask one another if we’ve seen the latest news. We wring our hands and say how horrible it is and wish there were something we could do to help. We text $10 donations to the Red Cross and somehow feel better. And we silently wonder if the same thing could happen to us.
And as in every disaster, natural and manmade, the vultures begin to circle before the dead are even cold, figuratively speaking. Scam artists have already set up fake charities and started sending electronic pleas for money to help the victims of the earthquake and tsunami. I hope there is a special place in hell for those people.
Almost as bad are the people who would use Japan’s misfortune for their own political agendas. The anti-nuclear power crowd are banging their gongs, distorting the truth and trying to use what is happening in Fukushima to create a knee-jerk reaction aimed at curtailing our own nuclear energy program.
It’s funny how human nature never changes. Throughout history, catastrophic events have always served to bring out the best in humanity and the worst in humanity. There are those who look upon the death, destruction and chaos and want to help and there are those who look upon the same situation and ask themselves, “What’s in it for me?”
And, of course, there are the folks who are completely clueless and just hope coverage of the potential nuclear meltdown doesn’t pre-empt Oprah or the NCAA tournament.
Me? I just sit and watch in horror and pray for the victims and give thanks that it was not South Carolina that was hit by an earthquake, a tidal wave and a Savannah River Plant disaster. And I did text my daughter Jenna that she could not go to Japan and do relief work.
At least not until the radiation dies down.
Darrell Huckaby is an author and teacher in Rockdale County. E-mail him at email@example.com. For archived columns, go to www.gwinnettdailypost.com/darrellhuckaby.