From numbers to names

There are multiple ways of looking at disasters.  Initially, we hear numbers:  195 dead or presumed dead in a plane crash, 2,996 perished in the attacks on 9-11, 38 million fatalities in World War One, and just under 2,000 homes and businesses completely destroyed in the Fort McMurray fire.  Once the numbers sink in, we begin to hear of segmentation of loss: ages, cultural background, nationalities, and in the case of the Fort McMurray fires, neighbourhoods.  Very quickly, we begin to hear personal stories that bring the tragedies closer and closer to home.

I was at the World War One memorial in Kansas City a few years back.  They have a poppy memorial where every poppy in the field represents 1000 lives lost.  It was a sobering metaphor for the scale of the violence that happened in the Great War.

The 9-11 memorial shook my soul in a way that I didn't expect.  Seeing the names of all the victims etched in the granite brought the tragedy, and my understanding of it, to a whole different level.

Open up the Fort McMurray Today this morning.  In it you will find page after page of addresses of homes that were destroyed in the fire.  My gut twisted and hurt at I looked at the devastating event through this lens of long lists of addresses.  Behind each address were people and families.  Each of those persons has lost a home, possessions, and precious memories.

I thought I had a good sense of the scope and scale of this fire, as so many people that I know have been affected in a deeply profound way.  However, I wasn't prepared to see these never-ending lists this morning.  I'm glad that it hit me by surprise, as it had a much stronger impact.

If your life is somewhat back to normal; if you have a house that is in decent shape; if the ravages of the fire seemed to pass you by; then I suggest you grab a copy of today's paper.  Your sense of the 10-percent who were impacted will come into much sharper focus.


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