Today we stood with hundreds of others wearing bright red poppies, listening to bagpipes and cannon volleys split the sky. We stood in silence, shuffling our feet to keep warm, and we remembered.
Olive was with us and she didn’t understand the significance of it, why we had all gathered to stand silently under a statue of a soldier, to watch men who seem ever older and more frail each year stand in their uniforms for what might be the last time, and salute.
I thought, as I do every year, of my grandparents. But especially this year of my grandmother, who with her death two years ago erased one more number from the ranks of living souls who served in World War II.
She always spoke somewhat fondly about her time serving in the navy. She was eighteen, and I suppose it all seemed exciting – gorgeous men in uniforms, spies, morse code, and travel. Before she died, she participated in something called The Memory Project and I never knew of her involvement until after her death when I happened to type in “Ann O’Brian” into a search engine.
This is what I found (I’m sorry, I can’t figure out a way to embed it).
Her voice hit me like a truck, it was so sharp and familiar coming through my headphones. That affected accent. Those specific intonations and patterns of inflection. It kills me to listen to it but I love her story, that winding tale of girls in the navy.
Earning a dollar a day translating morse code, “de-da, de-da.”
I thought of her, and I listened to her tell her story, and then later on in the day I stumbled across this, a video of a different elderly woman (perhaps someone else’s grandmother) and my heart broke again for an entirely different reason.
(if the video isn’t embedding, view it here)
Inge survived the holocaust. She saw the worst of the worst of us, and yet she went on and lived. Now, decades later she says, “I sometimes almost despair of human nature because no one has learned anything.”
Is she wrong?
This exchange from Hotel Rwanda has stuck in my gut for years:
Paul: How can they [the world] not intervene, when they witness such atrocities?
Cameraman: (shaking his head) I think, if people see this footage, they’ll say, “Oh my God, that’s horrible,” and then go on eating their dinners.
Is he wrong?
We stood in the cold and shuffled our feet and I watched as the wreaths were laid, the first one by a mother who’d lost her son.
Three days ago a typhoon hit the Philippines and the effects have been devastating. It’s a different war but the needs are just as great. And, not that I make it my business to go around proving elderly ladies wrong, but I would really love to show Inge that all is not lost. I would like to show her that the good survives, too. I would like to show Paul that we aren’t all just shaking our heads at the devastation, muttering “How horrible”, and going back to our breakfasts, our dinners, our long weekend plans.
Here is an incredibly comprehensive list of ways to help the victims of Super Typhoon Haiyan. Sometimes it feels cheap to throw money at a problem like this and hope it gets fixed, but right now sending support to the agencies on the ground who know what is needed is, I think, the best thing for those of us unable to take time off to go and volunteer ourselves.
Sometimes you don’t have $100 to donate, or even $50, so it sort of feels like anything you do will be like spitting into a waterfall and really what’s the point!- but if you can skip a beer or a coffee, or walk instead of taking a cab and send whatever you can – even $5 or $10- I think it’s the gesture, really. The acknowledgement that something devastating happened on the other side of the world and people are suffering, and you have made the decision to take a few moments out of your day to do what little lies within your power to help those people. The families that have lost each other and become scattered and fragmented, the cities in ruins, the aid workers scrambling to heal and feed and soothe and reunite.
I think it’s just important to do something. Because most of us took time today to remember, and someday in the future we will be looking back and commemorating the anniversary of this horrific event
Wouldn’t you like to remember how you helped?
- donations via the Philippine Red Cross (including PayPal)
- donations via Habitat for Humanity
- donations via ANCOP Foundation USA
- donations via UNICEF Philippines
- donations via CARE Australia
- donations via Caritas Internationalis
- donations via GMA Network (credit card, cash, check)
- donations via World Vision
- donations via AmeriCares
- donations via Samaritan’s Purse (Canada)
- donations via Canadian Red Cross (or you can text REDCROSS or ROUGE to 30333 to donate $5)
- donations via National Association For Filipino Concerns
(This fantastic list lifted and adapted from Lang Leav on tumblr. Please let me know in the comments if you have further suggestions, and please thoroughly vet any charity before donating.)
Internets, let’s prove Inge wrong, in the nicest way possible.