Twenty-one years ago today, when grounds shook early in the morning in my father’s hometown, I was on the other side of the earth. To be honest, there is nothing in particular about this day that stands out in my mind – it was just another ordinary day for me. But the day brought abrupt changes to the lives of hundreds of thousands of my compatriots.
When I returned to my homeland some years later, I saw the town and its neighbouring regions had regenerated so beautifully and was operating so normally. I failed to recognize at first glance that anything so destructive and debilitating had ever happened. And then, on a closer look, I realized that none of it could have been achieved without people feeling empathy for one another, finding the strength to carry on, showing resiliency in tough times, and working united to regain what was once lost.
However, twenty-one years is a long time to pass. Survivors are getting older and the number of those born after the disaster is increasing. Some advocates worry that the memory is fading away in our society, and give caution to our lessened concern for staying prepared and laying out preventive and protective measures. Maybe so.
But maybe, it is hard on the mind to keep remembering the trauma and feeling the grief.
Maybe we will turn our eyes away from matters that bring too much fear in us.
And maybe, no matter how well prepared we think we are, nature will strike in ways unforeseen to any of us.
Then maybe, general attributes that will make a difference during times of recovery from disasters, even when all else fails, are the memory that we ought to keep as a society. Attributes like empathy, strength, resilience, unity.