Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Tragedy strikes near and far away

During the day, more news has come in about the earthquake in Haiti. It has apparently destroyed the UN headquarters, the Anglican Cathedral and buildings housing its vital social outreach programme. Claudine learned that the daughter of an Anglican episcopalian couple working in Geneva, herself also an international civil servant working for the UN in Haiti, had been killed in her work place. Claudine had spent a weekend with her last year during a visit there. 

This tragedy will hit many more people here locally in the international organisations, losing colleagues, friends, family members. In this place of great wealth and accomplishment, there is suddenly deep shock and, for the moment, powerlessness. There are well tried and tested emergency response procedures in place on the part of many UN organisations. There may even be lines of communication to the heart of the situation, but few if any left alive to make the process effective. "Who can be ready for such a disaster?" as one interviewee just said on the radio.
It snowed for much of the morning, but the temperature rose slightly and so the snow settling started to turn slushy. At lunchtime I ventured out, taking the 16 tram on the Meyrin - Cornavin line down to Balexert shopping centre, which has gone through a phase of expansion, and now boasts a striking restaurant straddling the main highway. The tram stops below it, and an escalator takes people up to dining and shopping level. After lunch with Claudine in a Turkish restaurant for a change, I set out to look for the few items on Clare's shopping list, realised I'd forgotten my phone with necessary details recorded on it, and so had to go back home to fetch it first. I then re-took the tram to Cornavin and shopped in the town centre instead. This didn't take long, so I went down to the Quai Wilson and loitered at the lakeside, camera in hand, snapping a cloudy sky beautified by the setting sun. It was a contemplative hour, recalling people, many of them now dead and gone, that I'd known and ministered to here, ten years previously.

This evening Keith, Claudine and I were invited to supper with Alec and Ann-Marie nearby in Meyrin. Their daughter Dagmar and her husband Guy, at whose marriage I had officiated a dozen years ago were also there. It was a happy occasion, telling stories, eating raclette, a fitting conclusion to my stay in Switzerland. With the minor changes in temperature and weather conditions, I should fly out on time tomorrow midday, back home and straight into a school governors' meeting. 

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