"On the afternoon of May 12, 2008, an earthquake measuring 7.9 on the Richter scale hit Sichuan Province, a mountainous region in Western China, killing about 70,000 people and leaving over 18,000 missing. Over 15 million people lived in the affected area, including almost 4 million in the city of Chengdu." NYTimes.com
Today I'd like to take a moment to think about the natural disaster that struck China one year ago and reflect on the many Chinese people who devoted days and weeks of their lives to trying to make a difference in the aftermath. As you know, Oberlin students are quite committed to making a difference in the world. Many of our Chinese applicants this year told us of efforts that they had made to the post-quake efforts. A few detailed traveling to Sichuan and working with children who had lost their families or with the clean-up effort. Many others stayed home and worked to raise money for the relief effort. Thank you for caring.
While I'm on the subject of horrific natural calamities, I'd also like to bring to your mind the tsunami that devastated the Aceh province of Indonesia in December of 2004. I've been thinking of that a lot the last few days as my wife and I hosted Oberlin's three visiting Indonesian students for dinner on Sunday. As these fine young men were telling Katya about their own experiences and losses, I found my mind drifting back to my own visit to their university, Syiah Kuala University, in February 2007. Even then, more than two years after the tsunami, the evidence was still powerful. And the loss of life that was much less visible was even greater than the physical destruction that was so evident.
Closer to home, I also think about the impact of Hurricane Katrina on New Orleans and elsewhere and how proud I was of the many Oberlin students who gave up their fall breaks that year to help with the clean-up. I've always loved New Orleans and have been there many times. I haven't yet found the time to see the recovery there.
I've never had the privilege of visiting Sichuan province. But I hope that as time fades and the physical evidence of the earthquake disappears, people will continue to stop once in a while and remember the many, many people that lost everything. I also hope that the many fabulous folks around the world who seem to always step up to the plate in times like these are appreciated and that a few of them will in some way call Oberlin College home.