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The Griffin Editorial 2/10/23: Earthquake entails empathy, underscores education

A semi-truck slamming into a house. A dryer blowing up. These were some examples of what people imagined happened when they woke to a three-second rocking on Monday. Luckily, they were doing just that — imagining these things. The same day, a 7.8-magnitude quake rocked Turkey and Syria and killed thousands of people. With our 3.8 quake literally 10,000 times smaller than theirs, we got just a taste of what Turks must have thought and only a sample of Syrians’ suffering.

From the Tops shooting to the deadly Blizzard of ‘22, Buffalo has experienced its own horrors in the past calendar year. We experienced the worst of widespread phenomena: the national news showed our sorrows. Now, it’s our turn to have empathy. If you lost sleep because of Monday’s earthquake, imagine if your house actually did fall down or if your neighbors actually were killed. If you were stressed by the suddenness of the rumbling, imagine enduring two whole minutes of a worse version — and an almost-as-large aftershock.

The Russian invasion of Ukraine is rightly the focus of politicians’ angst, and we don’t make the comparison to belittle Ukrainians’ suffering. We make it to demonstrate the incredible scope of the destruction in Turkey and the importance of responding to Turkey’s needs.

We can’t help but point out that the Turkish quake and the Russian invasion into Ukraine are connected. Turkey has been in the news recently because of its President Recep Erdogan’s refusal to admit Sweden and Finland into NATO — a dilemma caused by the Nordic countries’ fear of a similar Russian invasion into their own countries. Now, the U.S. can’t afford to turn a blind eye to Turkey’s troubles. Its response to Turkey will affect NATO and thus the balance of power in Europe, a positive outcome for which could forestall another invasion that claims more lives.

But regardless of political calculations, if we care about Ukraine we must care as much about Turkey. Though many of us have never gone through the same experience, we sympathize for Ukraine because they are being invaded by a foreign power. It should now be even easier to empathize with Turks and Syrians because we have just gone through a similar though much, much lesser trauma. We don’t have to create wholecloth the terror of an early morning rumbling.

We editors were children when the most comparable quakes hit. The 2004 Indonesian earthquake that claimed hundreds of thousands of lives occurred just after most of us were born. Haiti’s horror in 2010 was one of the first global tragedies we can vaguely recall. Monday’s Turkish/Syrian quake is the worst one we are fully aware of.

Monday’s earthquake should forever help remind us of the global nature of the problems we face. We’re fortunate to live in a — relatively — geographically stable region and — again, relatively — politically stable nation. Natural disasters are less common in our corner of the world. And even if an event the size of the Turkish quake happened in our country, we would have more resources to deal with it.

It’s interesting to reflect on the odd experience of our earthquake, but instead of focusing on ourselves we should use it to understand even better the problems faced by more vulnerable people. The education we receive at Canisius is meant to be applicable to international issues — global awareness is in the core curriculum — and we shouldn’t stop that at the classroom. The Buffalo quake should emphasize why exactly we study such hard and complex issues as physics and politics.

We study at Canisius not to better understand the novelty of a minor earthquake that wakes us up in the morning. We study here so we can build buildings that can better withstand massive earthquakes, form governments that respond better to them and mold people who care about those who, even with the best possible infrastructure and administration, suffer from them. — PH

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