The storm and rain seemed pretty strong this morning, but not too different from any other storm I’ve experienced before. My maid came (against my advice—I encouraged her to wait until another day) and began cleaning the apartment. As I was working on the computer, I heard what sounded like thunder and saw sparks out of the corner of my eye. At first I thought lightening had struck a nearby power pole. By the time it happened again I figured out the problem. A large banner from the new construction site had torn from the building and wrapped itself around the power pole, also entangling itself in the power lines. The explosion/spark happened a third time, and then the banner finally fell to the street. It caused a loss of power here in our apartment building.
I decided to go to the mall and do a little shopping and studying. The wind was really strong, making the rain feel almost like needles. I went and bought a few things then sat down to eat at my favorite restaurant. The view from the restaurant was incredibly intense. The wind had strengthened considerably, and the rain was now moving horizontally. The mall and surrounding buildings seemed to be creating a wind tunnel type effect. I left the restaurant to go over to the nearby coffee shop.
The next thing I saw was terrifying. Three men were trying to pull a petty cab across the street, fighting the mighty wind’s force. A large piece of wood then fell diagonally from above, striking them and causing all three men to fall to the ground. The piece of wood looked to be about six feet long and about the size of a 4×4 plank, maybe bigger. It happened so fast that it was hard to tell. Two of them jumped up and ran away. The third did not—he seemed to be the one that was most directly hit. I watched for a few agonizing moments as no one assisted him—I couldn’t figure out why. A crowd had gathered near the mall entrance to watch the gruesome scene.
After what seemed like an eternity (but probably was under a minute), a group of five men ran out to him from across the street, but ran away. The longer I stood there, the more cowardly I felt. Cars where passing by and I was afraid he would be run over. “Maybe they are afraid something else will fall. Maybe they are not strong enough to carry him,” I said to myself, “but if they won’t, I will.” I passed by the crowd and made it to the door. I asked why no one helped him. They told me that he was dead (I will not go into the graphic details, but it was pretty clear from their description of his injury that he was dead). It was horrifying to know that had just witnessed someone get killed. An ambulance eventually came by. The ambulance also left him there. Apparently they knew they could do nothing for him and went off to another emergency.
The fierce wind continued, hurling pieces of debris like missiles. The mall management finally lowered metal doors/covers over the windows, afraid that something would fly through the window.
The man’s body was gone when they raised the metal gates. I left the mall a little later in the afternoon. I passed by some of the little shops and asked about the victim. They confirmed that he had been killed instantly by the accident.
I was kind of emotionally numb when I returned home. I wondered if I should have done more or reacted more quickly. Maybe I should have gone out and checked him for myself. I wondered why I didn’t break down and cry after seeing such an event. Maybe it is no different than passing by a mangled car wreck and knowing someone didn’t survive. Somehow it seems like it should be different. He was a complete stranger to me, but he was a man created in God’s image just like me.
There is something dehumanizing about living in a mega-city of fifteen million people. It is simply impossible to directly love them all—it is not even possible to know them all. I took great comfort in meditating on Matthew 10:29-31:
Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from the will of your Father. And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.
Not even a sparrow can fall to the ground without God knowing about it. I did not know this poor victim, but God knew him. The heart of God is big enough to love all of us.
9/29/06 Friday–the day after
The brownout continued as I woke up this morning. There was sort of an eerie silence over the city. The daylight revealed the damage that I did not see last night. Some of the nearby rooftops were partially or completely destroyed. Some of the aluminum roofing was rolled back like a tin can.
Within a few hours I could see people cleaning up and climbing on rooftops to observe/repair the damage. Filipinos have a way of taking things in stride that never ceases to amaze me. They meet disaster head on and awake the next morning with a patient tenacious smile, ready to do what is needed to put things back in order. They will handle this brownout much better than I will.
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