It was one of the first thoughts that occurred to me after I saw the second World Trade Center Tower fall. That terrible morning back on September 11, 2001 I watched the TV in horror and worried, “Where is my friend Farah at this moment?” I had met Farah in a Beijing Starbucks a few years before and we had become friends. From a Sri Lankan family that had moved to New York shortly after I knew her in China, Farah lived in Manhattan. Where was she?
Fast forward to Summer 2005, and the hurricanes that racked the United States. While Katrina in particular was devastating New Orleans, I worried again, “Where is Steve?” Steve was from Vancouver but he and I had been roommates in China in 1998 and I knew he was doing his medical residency in the Big Easy. Was he OK?
Fast forward once more to the present day. Israel and Lebanon are in the middle of a devastating war and CNN reports from the rocket-shocked areas every day. I see that Haifa has been badly hit and I wonder, “Where are Irene’s in-laws?” A friend since high school, Irene married an Israeli man and currently lives in Munich, but his family lives in Haifa. I met his mother while visiting Irene and Nir in Germany in 2000. Where are his parents right now?
The world is small. It’s very, very small. When things like these happen they don’t just happen to “other” people in various parts of the world. They happen to us. Whether or not we know someone directly that was affected by the attacks on the World Trade Center, by Hurricane Katrina, or by the current conflict in the Middle East in particular, we might not be able to easily say about other events, “Oh they don’t affect me. They don’t affect my life.” They might.
I’m happy to say that Farah and her family were fine in New York and that Steve just happened to be travelling in Morocco when the hurricane hit New Orleans. I’m still waiting to hear about Irene’s in-laws in Haifa, but I have high hopes that they were able to leave the city when the conflict started. But what will the next event that happens in the world be where I know someone that’s caught in the middle of it?
It’s easy to go about living our lives, not thinking of world events and the impact that they have. A lot of the time I’m guilty of that myself; sometimes those events just seem so far away. But when bad things happen in the world, someone is affected, someone is involved. It could be your friend, your family, or someone that you just met once.
The world is very small. The longer I live, the more I see evidence that this is true. We’re all in this together, are we not?