"PTSD is caused by contact between the individual and the darkest and most violent forces of human nature.
take the victim over the edge of life into serious confrontations with death or uncontrolled violence. Some individuals are therefore transformed and become, at some level, bearers of the traumatic experience." (Blank, 1985, p. 88)
Mass trauma has come to Haiti. Trauma so overwhelming that it is difficult to comprehend, within the limitations of the human brain, the enormity of the losses. I suspect even witnesses on the ground in Port-au-Prince- those seeing with their own eyes- still cannot process the magnitude of this tragedy.
While the mass media is clearly focused today on Haiti, public attention is not long-lived.
Weeks, month, years, and decades after the clean-up of Haiti- when the bodies are gone, buildings rebuilt, freshly sodded playgrounds bless the land, and children's schools are born into the new generation of, as one reporter said, a "better" Haiti, I cannot help but think to myself that this traumatic incident is infinite.
Much like Columbine, September 11th, Rwanda, the Lost Boys of Sudan, even the Holocaust, and other highly publicized tragedies.
Yet, all the media attention brings much needed help. And so, that is good.
But I hope we don't forget that long after the new anti-violence educational programs in Colorado were initiated; long after the last scrap of metal rubble at ground zero was taken away; long after the Tutsi and Hutu basket weavers came together to raise money for orphans in Rwanda; long after the Lost Boys started running track in American high schools-- long after all these things, there remain profoundly painful psychological wounds of the survivors. For some, time does its job well in promoting healing and helping those affected by these tragedies find meaning again in life. For others, the struggle with grief in the aftermath of such trauma will be paralyzing.
So when I hear stories today of the tragedies from years ago, relegated to the back of the public's book of memories, I think of those families, and I imagine how life has changed, irreparably, for them. And in ten and twenty years, I will probably do the same for the countless numbers of people in Haiti who are suffering in ways I cannot begin to imagine.
How to help:
•The American Red Cross is pledging an initial $200,000 to assist communities impacted by this earthquake. They expect to provide immediate needs for food, water, temporary shelter, medical services and emotional support. They are accepting donations through their International Response Fund.
•UNICEF has issued a statement that "Children are always the most vulnerable population in any natural disaster, and UNICEF is there for them." UNICEF requests donations for relief for children in Haiti via their Haiti Earthquake Fund. You can also call 1-800-4UNICEF.
•Donate through Wyclef Jean's foundation, Yele Haiti. Text "Yele" to 501501 and $5 will be charged to your phone bill and given to relief projects through the organization.
•Operation USA is appealing for donations of funds from the public and corporate donations in bulk of health care materials, water purification supplies and food supplements which it will ship to the region from its base in the Port of Los Angeles.
•Save The Children has launched an emergency relief effort for Haiti. Donate to their fund to provide medical attention and clean water to children and families.
**The U.S. State Department Operations Center has set up the following number for Americans seeking information about family members in Haiti: 1-888-407-4747**