Yesterday morning I woke to the terrible news of the Asian earthquake with a startled personal jolt: on December 21st my brother Ethan left New York in a frenzy of packing and blurted “sorry-can’t-no-time” phone calls for Colombo in Sri Lanka, where he has been setting up house with his fiancée VSOJ.
I think I knew, in that way we have, that he was all right (and I’m going to skip the suspense: he’s fine, and so is she). I didn’t open my eyes to the news with any onrushing sense of dread or the sinking feeling you get when you try instinctively to persuade yourself that it’s all going to be OK, when you know it won’t be. Worried yes — of course that. The miracle of email offered up a quick note from the two of them, safe and sound in Laos and with no idea, yet, of the magnitude of the thing. Later, as the size and scope began to sink in, they wrote more:
Although five days ago VSOJ was on the southern Sri Lankan beaches where the devastation was the worst (not far from Galle) and we live in the Colombo zones where the flooding is very bad, we are both actually right now in Laos. VSOJ flew to Bangkok to meet me there four days ago and we have long planned to spend ten days here in the inland regions of Southeast Asia. Yes, we are far from any open water. However, we are very, very concerned …
It makes our local spatter of snow and cold seem rustic and tiny. As I write now, CNN is reporting 23,000 dead, with 10,000 casualties in Sri Lanka and 2,000 dead in the Tamil Tiger territory to the northeast; it is the hardest hit of the zones so far, and the devastation is hard to contemplate.