The mind struggles to grasp the extent of the disaster.
With each passing hour, it seems, the number of victims of the earthquake and tsunami in the Far East grows to numbers that are increasingly unfathomable and downright frightening.
As of this writing, the latest count is 122,000 dead, with fears that even this enormous number will continue to soar.
Think back to the last time you went to a baseball or football game, and imagine the stands filled to capacity with 50,000 to 60,000 human beings. Now take that image and double it, and you still don’t reach the total number of people lost in this disaster.
It is of course only natural that our attention is drawn to the fate of the dead, to the pain and sense of loss felt by their families and loved ones. Just yesterday, an 11-month old Belgian Jewish child who died in the flooding in Thailand was buried on the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem. What can one say in the face of such horror?
But we must also not lose sight of something equally important: not to forget the fate of the living - of those people who survived the catastrophe but were injured in the process, and who now must battle their way back to health and a sense of normalcy.
I was reminded of this by a terribly sad story that I heard the other day. I hesitate to even tell it, but here goes: a young married Israeli woman was critically injured in a Palestinian suicide attack, leaving her in a vegetative state. As a result, her life has been ruined forever, effectively destroyed just when she was about to embark on building a family, a career and a future.
The impact, however, was not limited to her – it has, inevitably, taken over the lives of her loved ones as well. Her two parents have been forced to drop everything else and now devote themselves day and night to caring for their daughter, while the victim’s husband grapples with the impossibly painful and wrenching decision that none of us should ever have to face: to stay out of a sense of loyalty and commitment, or to move on with his life in the hopes of marrying again and having children?
Then there are the victim’s siblings, her in-laws and cousins, her friends, her neighbors…
I guess what I am trying to say is that when we ponder such events – be they a natural disaster such as a tsunami or the work of human hands such as a terrorist attack – we should always try to look beyond the statistics and remember the forgotten victims, those who continue to live with the aftermath every day of their lives, be they the family of the dead and wounded, or those who were badly injured. They, too, are in need of our help, and our prayers.