Recently I've been trying my best to follow up on the aptly named "DISASTER IN JAPAN". Typically I'm not one to follow the news, but it seems as of late everyone is more or less obsessed with finding out the latest death tolls and destruction numbers. Personally, I've really only been watching it for the photos and videos that have been taken as a result of the catastrophe. Now maybe you're sitting there and you are thinking to yourself, "Josh, why would you possibly want to see those videos and photos? What are you, some kind of morbid freak? It's like you have a thing for death!" And if by chance you actually happen to be currently thinking this, let me just answer you by saying this: No, I do not have a "thing for death", nor am I one to obsess over excessively morbid thoughts (although I do have them from time to time... but that's neither here nor there). Instead, I have been watching and finding these clips/pictures for a completely different reason. First let me tell you an actual story that happened to me just a few hours ago.

After deciding to skip my afternoon classes today on account of my Romantic Literature class being cancelled, I decided to head over to NYPD for a relaxing lunch (for those of you unfamiliar with what N.Y.P.D is I suggest visiting downtown Ypsilanti soon and checking it out, their deep dish pizza is quite amazing). Anyway, when I got there I noticed that an overhead television was displaying some of the more recent developments of the earthquake/tsunami. After ordering my food, I sat down next to the television and began eating while being simultaneously drawn to the horror that was on-display via the television. As I was nearly finished with my food, one of the workers came over and stood by the T.V. for a moment. I paid little attention to him until he spoke.

“It doesn’t seem real,” he said. The man was wearing a green shirt and blue jeans. His hair was about shoulder length, and he had a full beard. “My God, would you just look at that?” he went on, “It makes you feel so small… almost insignificant. I mean here we are safe in Michigan, in a little old pizza place, and half way across the world people are dying in the streets.”

For a moment I was speechless. Not solely because of the sheer frankness of the man’s words, but also because of the real truth that was behind them. I could only really reply with a simple, “Yeah. It’s pretty crazy.” After that the man nodded, and walked back in to the kitchen. For the next few minutes I sat there at the table, staring in bewilderment at the absolute chaos and destruction on the screen, with one sole thought in my mind: Human beings are indeed small, seemingly insignificant creatures.
There is something truly humbling about looking at the aftermath of what can only be described as an act of God. It truly makes you think for a moment just how fragile a human life is. Take for example the many Japanese that were killed during the initial earthquake. Almost no one had any real idea what was about to happen, and even less had an actual chance to react to the situation. One second everyone is going about their life like any other day, and a second later an entire village and more than half of its inhabitants are eradicated.

I think this is something that Americans in particular never really consider. Sure we read about “catastrophes” in the newspapers, and we hear about massacres in the news, but it seems we really never stop to consider that such an event can happen to us. I feel even now as I watch the news about Japan and how the death toll is now in the tens of thousands I can’t help but feel that I am still just as safe as ever right here in good old Michigan. But the truth is, none of us are ever truly “safe”. Anyone can expire without a moment’s notice; and unfortunately to the rest of the world, you will then just be another statistic in some book somewhere.

So I’ve said all that to say this: The next time you find yourself watching the news, and the reporter is spouting off the most recent death tolls as some new catastrophic event unfolds, and you think to yourself, “That’s how many people were killed? Well that’s not so bad”, stop and think again. Those “numbers” were human beings. No, they’re not just people from some other foreign country. They’re not terrorists, or Communists, or whatever type of people you want to call them; they were people, just like you and me. And finally, if you ever catch yourself thinking with this typical American mentality, remind yourself that it just as easily can be your name the reporter is reading from the list of the deceased.

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