By Stephanie Cowell
The South Asia Tsunami, and then following it a year later, the 2005 Pakistan Earthquake and the floods from Katrina in New Orleans; the 2006 Central Indonesia Earthquake and, this past year, Haiti. It all seems so remote and yet it is not at all.
I am likely at breakfast with my coffee when I open the newspaper and faces stare out at me. Weeping children, mothers standing before the ruins of their homes, full lives and fertile fields swept away in moments. My coffee is sweet and milky, my house just the right temperature. Flood to me personally is what happens when the old water pipes in my prewar Manhattan building soak my closet contents. Family members drive to work with nothing more than a traffic jam to frustrate them. Most of us have jobs and our closets (even water-leaked) are full of clothes. We turn on lights when it is dark; our refrigerators hum, stuffed with food.
The faces implore me and the stories seep from the pages. Lives swept away, a boy alone, a man weeping, the words, “All gone.” A sense of undeserved fortune fills me. Tears come to my eyes. I know I can do something, however little. I go online and donate to the Red Cross to be there in my stead. The Red Cross is the feeling I can do something for those people who could have been me, who are, however remote, somehow my family.
Stephanie Cowell is the author of several historical novels: Nicholas Cooke, The Players, The Physician of London, Marrying Mozart, and Claude and Camille: A Novel of Monet. Her work has been translated into eight languages. She is the recipient of an American Book Award.