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Whenever there is a massive catastrophe, there will be a ground zero. Merriam Webster describes ground zero as the central point in an area of fast change or intense activity or the point on the earth’s surface directly above, below, or at which an explosion (especially a nuclear explosion) occurs. 

At the moment, or moments, of impact there is nothing anyone can do, only hope that you, and whoever is around you, is not completely destroyed by the power of what is coming. I think it is fair to stay that most try to keep themselves at a distance from places that may be likely to be the future location of ruin. Even after a catastrophe has hit, we purposefully distance ourselves in an effort to avoid any emotional attachment to what was once there. I am guilty. Even after 9-11, I purposefully keep myself from watching the news and all of the replays of the aircraft slamming into the twin towers. I did not know anyone who died that day, but it did not matter. Human beings died. For a large number of us, 9-11 was the first time we experienced a ground zero of such significant magnitude and it has yet to be the last. Over the past 13 years, ground zeros have been popping up all over the world; tsunamis, massive earthquakes, hurricanes, bombings, shootings, and airline crashes.

As there is exponential growth in catastrophe, inversely, there is an exponential decay of our reality. 

Ideally we would like to believe that none of these events are truly happening, but the media and the internet makes it almost impossible to distance ourselves from them. Because we are brought so “close” to each event, with nowhere to run (except away from the remote), I believe our minds naturally become numb to it, in an effort to protect us from the reality. As we continue to watch shows on television like Walking Dead or reality series similar to Survivor or even play video games like Call of Duty, it becomes hard for us to differentiate what is real and what is not. You may disagree, but the market is a direct reflection of our reality, and each day more and more people are purchasing Apocalypse Survival Kits or Dooms Day prepping to some extent. Whether it is financially, through the purchase of supplies, guns, gold, or even bunkers people are getting ready (for something?).

What do we do with the knowledge of the reality that more catastrophes are likely to come? Prepare to help those in need. I say this because it seems as if the more inherent thing to do is help ourselves prepare for an “apocalypse” rather than to save up to support those who have gone, are currently going, or will go through one.

This became real to me in December of 2004, after Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami. Over 200,000 people died as a result of the largest earthquake ever recorded (a magnitude of over 9.0). To be honest, immediately after seeing it on television, I felt numb to it. I could not comprehend the magnitude of the event or even how large “ground zero” really was. My mind used its good ole’ self-defense system and protected me from truth. Even after I arrived in Kao Lok Thailand, only two short months after the event occurred, the reality failed to set in. I could see, feel, and even smell ground zero. Crumbled homes, new plywood and tin shacks to replace them; the ground was burnt, dried up and scattered with trash and what used to be people’s belongings; the smell of rot, and makeshift fires filled the air. A true wasteland, something straight out of everyone’s favorite show…but the difference was, it was real. Then, about 5 days into the trip, it hit me. I do not know why it took my mind so long to realize what had happened in Kao Lok. I had been working endlessly trying to help as much as I could; cleaning and building to help those in need get back on their feet. They had lost so much, and been through even more emotionally, physically, and mentally. I was so focused on the mission, I became desensitized to everything around me, or maybe I was even before I got there. I would talk to people who had lost their who families, and see the remains of children’s clothes and shoes scatter all over, but nothing was triggered inside of me until I walked into Pub 54.

Although it was 9 years ago, I remember it like it was yesterday. I was walking down one of the main streets of Kao Lok, the building had a sign that read pub 54 restaurant. The building was cleaned out, and there was a British women on the inside cleaning up and remodeling what was once a very popular bar. The building was two stories tall, and from the outside you could see where the water mark from the tsunami had left its relentless impression. The women had purchased the building shortly after the tsunami had hit and was working tirelessly to create an english education center to help the displaced Thai people to learn how to use computers and speak english. It was her way of helping those in need create opportunity and generate hope of a new life after the terrible tragedy they faced.

For the first few hours I was at pub 54 I did as I usually did, helped clean, build, salvage, and remodel something that was destroyed from the flood. After about an hour, the women ask me if I would like to look upstairs, above the pub, at an apartment of a family that was never found after the tsunami. It was an odd offer, but I was curious. Plus, it was getting pretty hot, nearing lunch, and I needed a break from all the work, so I readily accepted. As I walked to the back of the pub, I met some stairs leading up to the apartment. About halfway up the first set of stairs I looked down at the stair railing and spotted some dried up blood. At first I did not think much of it, and continued up the stairs. Reaching the second set of stairs I noticed a dirty faint line on the wall, it was the water line, similar to the one on the outside of the building, where the flood waters from the tsunami had reached. From what I can remember, it was about 15 feet above ground level and the pub was over 200 yards from the shoreline. Immediately above that faint line was a dry and dirty red smear of blood across the wall taking the shape of someone’s hand reaching upwards above the water line towards the apartment door less than 5 feet away. Frozen in time, that moment changed my life. Hundreds of thoughts rushed through my mind, and instantly I could feel the panic, I understood the intensity of the water, I could hear the screams, and I could taste the fear…it was as if I was at ground zero as it was all happening. My mind was in shock and my heart was broken. As I continued up the stairs, through the door and into the apartment, I went back into time to before the tsunami hit. The apartment remained untouched; the turbulent waters never reached it. Family photos on the walls, newspapers on the side table, and dishes in the sink, the only thing that was out of place was the family that once occupied it.  That family, and hundreds of thousands of other families, found themselves at a central point in an area of fast change or intense activity; ground zero. They had no chance, and all the preparation in the world would not have saved them.  I found myself finally realizing it was all real; the people, the homes, the burnt ground, and the disaster, it was not just some facade fabricated by the media or hollywood.  I had woken up, and for the first time what I was seeing was less than 1% of the destruction. There were no actors or random beings  (dehumanized by the distance between us) living off in some foreign land (as seen on TV), but instead the real people were my brothers, my sisters, my mother, my father, my aunts and uncles, my cousins, my grandparents, and my friends.

People just like you and me.

Be Wise.Rugged.Brave.



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