I have been glued to the news about Japan.
Oh yes, we’re hardened and semi-immune now to images of death and destruction, it seems so far away. There are the tears that well up in the eye in sympathy, there is the little circle “o” of the mouth when we watch the shocking images on the screen, there is the reaching for the wallet (albeit virtual) to send a bit of money because we feel helpless to do much more. I cannot separate myself from this and feel comfort in my safe little existence on the other side of the world. Just can’t.
With my significant other on the other side of the sea in his travels I am guarding the castle, and that includes the hearts and minds of my little bunnies (two of whom are not so little anymore) so I must remain strong and hide the fact that I am terrified by this. I have this intense feeling of dread that we are watching events that will forever change our world. What if the nuclear plant is damaged further, or goes into the dreaded meltdown, or worse? What if there is another earthquake (as of today they are saying it is very likely there will be, not just a minor aftershock but another large one, within the next three days)?
I was in NYC on 9/11, and I almost feel the same sort of curious mixture of fear, dread and calm that I did that day as I joined the throngs in the street, walking about aimlessly, still in shock over what had happened, expecting another jet to come or a bomb to fall, yet at the same time feeling the warm sun on my skin, seeing the deep pure blue of the sky and the faces of others around me. It was surreal.
These people were not walking around sobbing, their faces like cartoon characters expressing the terror which no doubt was stewing within, they were walking and talking, and hugging and even smiling. There were some who beckoned others to join them for drinks in a bar, since damn it, the world might be ending and we might as well…. I walked South by the riverside (odd I know to head towards the towers, but at that point no one knew what was happening and the bridges were a way to get out), the thick smoke from the towers cutting through the blue sky, passing those who had come from there whose faces were sooty and who wore thin masks or scarves to cover their noses and mouths, and then, I saw what will always remain in my mind.
People were fishing. Fishing.
I’ll never know if they were so out of the loop that they were unaware of what was happening (is that possible?), or if they had perhaps lived through something that made them immune to the horror and able to just move on, but there they were. A father and two children, baiting the line, tossing it into the sparkling water below. As if it were a normal sunshine-filled day on the East River.
I had a similar moment today when I turned off CNN and moved to another part of the house. Unwilling to let go of the constant stream of news, I turned on the radio. My normal station was playing music (how could they?), so I scanned stations until I found someone talking about Japan.
It turns out it was a travel show, and I soon realized they were taking calls from the audience, which I will paraphrase below:
caller – “I have tickets for next week and I’m wondering what to do?”
[there followed a discussion of travel insurance packages that might have covered losses on cancelling a trip…]
male host: “Really the worst thing you can do is cancel your trip. It’s my understanding that the airports are open and, especially if you are traveling in the South there should be no problem.
woman host: “Well they did say the skyscrapers swayed in Tokyo.”
male host: “Yes but that was days ago. Really I don’t think there is a problem, and any radiation in the air will be far away.”
woman host: “But you’re not a scientist.”
male host: “No but unless you are in the region where the radiation is it’s not going to travel to other parts, I mean after Chernobyl people still travelled to Europe.”
It turns out the male host was none other than Arthur Frommer, his co-host his wife.
Seems he is of the same ilk as the fisherman, or worse, because Mr. Frommer (never did buy his travel books, nor will I ever now, that is for sure) is clearly aware of what is happening and still can say such bizarre things.