We lost so much

Reading the business page report on the devastating earthquake and tsunami that hit Asia and Indonesia last week left a bad taste in my mouth.
The business reporter assessed the financial situation from the destruction in Indonesia and Sri Lanka and other countries. One phrase in particular echoed in my brain: “The devastating earthquake and tidal waves that hit Asian countries are not expected to have a major impact …”
100,000 people dead – and it left no major impact!
“Any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls it tolls for thee. “ John Donne wrote. When anyone dies, we all are impacted.
The deadly effects of the earthquake and tsunami, tolled the bell for the entire world.
Until Sunday morning, the four hurricanes that hit Florida and the Caribbean vied for the honor of the natural disaster of the year. The hurricanes left over 1,500 people dead in Haiti and 200 in other locations.
Then the earth shifted off the shores of Indonesia and triggered a deadly tsunami that swept across the beach cities of Asia. Mountains of water swept the shores clean of twice the number of people who live in El Dorado and Union County, along with their vehicles, homes and businesses.
Parents and grandparents sifted through the rubble of their homes looking for their loved ones – half the missing were children. Shop owners were literally washed out. Few had insurance to rebuild – and that is the lucky break for the world of business.
That is what the article really addressed – the devastation “was not expected to have a major impact on foreign trade.” Financially speaking, in comparison to the impact of the hurricane in Florida last fall, the actual dollar losses in Asia are expected to be “anywhere from several hundred million dollars to a few billion dollars,” according to Robert Hartwig, an economist with the Insurance Information Institute in New York. “That’s far less than the $20 billion insurers paid out in Florida after four hurricanes struck that state this year.”
We can enter the new year with the comforting knowledge that as bad as it is “over there,” our lives will not be disrupted. Exxon Mobil only suffered a temporary minor disruption Sunday morning, but its production was restored by Sunday afternoon. We will have our oil. Our cars will still run. Traffic will not stop anywhere in the U.S. for a few moments of respect for the 100,000 people whose only funeral cortege will be the trip taken to their mass graves.
The death of 100,000 people and the loss of their property may not have a great economic impact on some, but others, like my parents, count their riches far differently. In the 1950s and 60s when the minimum wage was a dollar or less, my mother shrugged off what she did not have, looked at her five children and said, “We are millionaires five times over.”
We all have been diminished with the sudden deaths of 100,000 on the other side of the world, but do not send your eyes to the business page to know how much we lost.
(Joan Hershberger is a reporter at the News-Times.)