in my newsfeed yesterday. This time it was not a ferry capsizing somewhere in Asia or Africa. It was not a tourist bus going over a ravine in South America. It was not a derailment in India. It was a bus slamming into a wall in Switzerland. The death toll is high and it is somehow far worse because so many of the dead and the injured are children. I had a moment when I felt - quite literally - sick.
I am supposed to be able to mentally handle disasters. I am supposed to be able to put a distance between myself and what is happening. I am supposed to be able to concentrate on the job of helping.
Perhaps it was because I was not actually required to do something that this was so hard? I do not know. I am well aware that children die in disasters. It happens all too frequently. They are much more vulnerable than adults. Women are more vulnerable than men. Men are often physically stronger and more able. In some cultures they will be better fed. Of course men tend to take more risks. It is men who do most of the fighting in conflicts. It is the way the world works. I do not like any of these things.
But yesterday's news hit hard for another reason. I have friends living in Belgium. They have three grandchildren. One of them was going on a skiing trip to Switzerland. Was he involved?
I paced the room. I paced the house. Did I inquire? Did I remain silent? They may not know yet . I did not want to intrude on what might be a family tragedy. I wanted to show I was alert and concerned. No, better to say nothing. Perhaps I should say something. My thoughts went around and around.
My friends know I get the newsfeed. The husband helped to set it up for me. We have worked together many times. Commonsense told me they would let me know when they could. They did.
Last night there was an e-mail from my friends, "Maarten not involved." I felt an immense sense of relief for them even while being aware that far too many people are not that fortunate. Life will never be the same again for those who are involved.
It is different when it is personal.