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Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Fleeing Libya; Packing a Suitcase; Examining Possessions

I watched some news footage last night of the people fleeing Libya that are stuck at the Tunisian border and trying to get out. I have so many thoughts on the massive political changes and unrest, but what pervades me most is, that there is no way I can even begin to understand what these people have, are, and will continue to go through.It seems like I should understand, or be able to do something and yet, I would have no idea what that would be. I'm sure during other conflicts, such as when Jews were being forced out of their country, "unaffected people" had the same feelings. Back then we didn't have live streaming video, foreign correspondents embedded with troops and the constant "live action" pictures. I bet people thought, "If only others could really see what we're going through they would react". Well, now we "see" what others are going through, but I don't think we can, at least I can't, truly comprehend or find a way to react.

What struck me as I watched the crushing crowds and the struggles was the suitcases. Many people are carrying huge suitcases with them. A lot of them are carrying these suitcases on their heads as they push through the crowds. I wondered how many times the corner of one of those suitcases hits the person in front, beside and behind you before mass anger breaks out. It's one thing to be pushed by people all around you- even worse to be bashed by their belongings. Then in amazement I noticed one guy was actually carrying a T.V. on the top of his head! That's all he had because it was a pretty big T.V. and he couldn't carry anything else. I wondered why in the world, if you thought you needed to flee and get out of a dangerous situation, the one thing you would choose to take would be your electric television set? I also wondered what the chances are of that T.V. getting anywhere safe in one piece? And how many people will be hurt by it along the way?

Back to the suitcases. In an attempt to try and sort out the scene, I wondered what I would put in a suitcase if I suddenly had to leave my home- forever. My left brain, and the emergency manager in me, immediately went to the "evacuation list" of suggested items to take with you if you have to suddenly leave. Here's the list:
1. Personal documents (health care numbers, passports, birth certificate)
2. Household documents (insurance papers, deeds, wills)
3. spare keys to house and cars
4. cash
5. cell phone, extra batteries, contact phone numbers
6. Seven day supply of medications
7. Extra clothing and footwear
8. Entertainment (kids favorite toy, book, puzzle)
8. Pet supplies (carrier, leash, food)

Back to Libya and a review of that list.
1. What documents? That's part of the problem, no papers, never had health care, unclear country of origin
2. Insurance??? What is that? Something for the rich who aren't fleeing.
3. Keys? Cars? House? Wouldn't be walking if any of these were realistic
4. Cash? Have likely used everything they had to bribe people along the way, or it was stolen, might have small supply, but wouldn't put it in the suitcase- it would be on your person.
5. Cell phone? The news reports say many have had their cell phones stolen or confiscated, but it does seem to be an object people relate to and have taken with them if they can
6. Medications? If they have medical conditions that necessitate meds they have the luxury of having a supply of, I'm not sure they would have made it this far.. maybe
7. Clothes and footwear? Okay- that might be in the suitcase
8. Entertainment? Are you kidding!!?? This is not about "spending time in an evacuation shelter" this is basic survival. But maybe the guy with the T.V. read this list on the Internet somewhere!Hmm...
9. Pet supplies? Are you kidding!!?? Pets are not an option, they are a luxury.

So the logical, emergency management, left side of my brain, really won't help me connect with these people in any tangible helpful way it seems. My list, emergency plans, and management suggestions would likely get me killed quite quickly, unless I made it to a Red Cross/Crescent shelter without getting whacked on the head with those suitcases.

So... I turn to the right side of my brain or perhaps out of my brain and into my heart. There I know we are all connected. I can very much identify with how much pain, fear, worry, panic, and despair these people must be going through. I can understand that whatever is in that suitcase, at this moment in time, it represents your entire world and the things that you hold dear, no matter how crazy they seem to others. I don't judge your decisions. I can understand that a piece of you wants to believe, to hope, that at some point down the road you can plug that T.V. in to a nice electrical outlet somewhere, put your feet up and watch your favorite sitcom. I hope you can too. And I send you peace and the courage to make a difference.

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