Fri 12 Feb 2010
One month ago today, a devastating magnitude 7.0 earthquake struck Haiti. News agencies immediately descended on Port-au-Prince, jockeying to see who could show the most heart-rending story. This seems distasteful and exploitative to a lot of people, and I do understand their perspective. On the whole, though, I believe that without media coverage Haiti would not be seeing the kind of global support they are now receiving.
But whenever I read stories about a natural disaster, I remember a letter that was written for the Galveston Daily News on Sept. 13, 1900. Five days earlier, a hurricane had taken the lives of more than 6,000 people and destroyed Galveston, Texas. It remains the United States’ most deadly natural disaster. The letter is written in what is now an archaic style, but it is eloquent and poignant in a way that modern journalism can’t be.
The story of Galveston’s tragedy can never be written as it is. Since the cataclysm of Saturday night, a force of faithful men have been struggling to convey to humanity from time to time some of the particulars of the tragedy.
They have told much, but it was impossible for them to tell all; and the world, at best, can never know all, for all thousands of tragedies written by the storm must forever remain mysteries until eternity shall reveal all.
Perhaps it were best that it should be so, for the horror and anguish of those fatal and fateful hours were mercifully lost in the screaming tempest and buried forever beneath the raging billows.
Only God knows; and for the rest, let it remain forever in the boundlessness of His omniscience.
But in the realm of finity, the weak and staggered senses of mankind may gather fragments of the disaster, and may strive with inevitable incompleteness to convey the merest impression of the saddest story which ever engaged the efforts of a reporter.