Just six more months remain in this decade, and then we approach the teen years of the 21st century. They couldn’t bring much more heartache than we endured throughout the birthing process, toddler stages and playground tussles that left their many marks on our century’s first 10 years.
- The decade was forever scarred, right from the start, by the 2001 attack on the fabric of our economic, military and political framework on 9/11.
- In February, 2003, the space shuttle Columbia disintegrated over Texas, once again puncturing the frontier spirit and steady scientific advancement that distinguish America’s genome.
- The day after Christmas in 2004, we added “tsunami” to our common vocabulary as the second-largest earthquake ever recorded (9.1 to 9.3 on the Richter scale) devastated portions of Indonesia, Sri Lanka, India and Thailand and swamped tiny island nations in the Indian Ocean.
- The following year, in August 2005, Hurricane Katrina became the costliest natural disaster in United States history and one of the five deadliest hurricanes ever to strike the U.S.
- A few months later, in January 2006, came West Virginia’s Sago Mine Disaster that was discovered to have taken the lives of 12 miners after false reports that they had survived.
- The Virginia Tech massacre occurred in April, 2007, resulting in the shooting deaths of 32 people on campus. It was reported to be the deadliest peacetime shooting incident involving a lone gunman in U.S. history.
- The year 2008 marked the global economy’s plummet into the Great Recession, a crisis we are still combating today. On Sept. 29, the Dow Jones Industrial Average tumbled more than 777 points, its largest single-day point loss ever.
- In May of 2009, all 228 aboard perished when an Air France jetliner mysteriously fell out of the sky and into the Atlantic Ocean en route from Rio de Janeiro to Paris, France.
- And, as if in a July 4th-finale-style explosion of crises to end the decade, the first six months of 2010 alone have produced devastating earthquakes in Haiti and in Chile, the horrifyingly interminable oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, the Upper Big Branch Mine explosion that killed 25 in West Virginia, 13 inches of destructive rains in Nashville in just 2 days, and flash floods killing 16 at an Arkansas campground.
All this and more: an overwhelming earthquake in China’s Sichuan Province, the terrorist attack on hotels in Mumbai, the swine flu epidemic, and a near disaster—miraculously only “near”—as Capt. Sully landed his airliner in the Hudson River to save everyone on board.
In my culture, the arcane technical term we’d apply to such a decade is, “Oy!”
While every age has its disasters, in recent years they’ve seemed to be closing in on us more for some reason. That reason, I’m fairly certain, is that news media and social media have made us all a part of each disaster. We see, write and talk with people who are in the midst of crisis—whether in New Orleans, Tehran or Kabul. We pledge and send aid to victims in milliseconds via the Internet, and we motivate flash mobs of responders in just hours.
We have, in fact, for better or for worse, finally become one world. We carry the world on our belts now; we post and text as one vibrant, animated being. So as we ramp up toward the new decade, let’s use these new communication powers to help mitigate disasters, rather than help stimulate them. Let’s be connected and responsive, instead of aloof and merely observant. Let’s be what a unified world must be to survive: caring communicators.