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Australia on my mind

January 15, 2011

With the tragic news of the floods in Brisbane and Queensland this past week, Australia has been on my mind.  Many people have seen the videos and images of the floods that destroyed homes and killed a number of people in Australia.  The damage is massive, the death toll is heart-breaking, and the recovery will take many years.

Out of this tragedy, a number of stories have emerged including the story of a 13 year old boy who told rescuers to save his 10 year old brother first only to be swept away to his death moments later.  I’ve seen images of horses struggling to stay above the water, people with their belongings on top of their homes, and homes and cars washed away.  A tragedy like this doesn’t have a lot of happy endings.

In the midst of conflict or tragedy, it offers the chance for humans to overcome, learn something from these events, and help out one another.  It’s this human spirit that encourages us.  It’s with that in mind I wrote about photos of the valley this past week.  And it’s why people in Australia need our help.

The San Francisco earthquake and 9/11

Native Australians Caz and Craig Makepeace are travel bloggers who are currently back home in Australia.  Their hearts have been moved by the tragedy and they’ve written a couple of posts this week encouraging people to help out and urging Queenslanders to remain strong and overcome.

The day after the tragedy struck, I saw a documentary on the lives of people in the San Francisco earthquake of 1989.  You see the video footage as the earthquake happens and the damage that was inflicted upon this city by this natural disaster.

The show documented the lives of people that were trapped, rescuers who risked their lives to save people, and common ordinary folks helping out.  In this story, the unity of the people amazed me as citizens directed traffic in place of policemen who were assisting in the rescue efforts, ordinary people carrying hoses from the water to the Marina district to help to fight fires, and neighborhoods coming together and risking their lives to rescue people from the Cypress bridge collapse.

A little more than ten years later and we see again how people unite in the midst of tragedy.  There are hundreds of told and untold stories from the terrorist attacks on the Twin Towers in New York City and the Pentagon on September 11, 2001.  In the midst of tragedy, people risked their lives to help others.  It didn’t matter that it was New York City.  All Americans were affected that day.  I’ve never seen the nation so united.

Like 9/11 and the San Francisco earthquake, let’s hope Australians unite and rebuild as well.

Australian memories, the Australian Open, and the birth of a son

I’ve never been to Australia but I feel really connected to the country.

In 2004, my then-girlfriend went to Australia and New Zealand in 2004 to celebrate her birthday.  Nearly every day, I was making calls to Australia to find out what she did that day and to hear what it was like.  From Sydney to Cairns to Melbourne, I got to travel with her on that trip and was excited to meet her at the airport on the way home.  It was that trip home from Australia and New Zealand that I met her family for the first time.

I am a big sports fan but just a casual fan of tennis.  However, this time last year, I found myself glued to the TV every night watching the Australian Open.  Night after night, I stayed up late watching matches.  It was just before midnight on January 19 and I was watching another exciting match when it was time to go to the hospital.

That girlfriend who had gone to Australia in 2004 was now my wife and was ready to give birth to our second child.  And as we waited for him to arrive, I turned on the TV to watch more of the Australian Open.  With one of the best matches of the tournament being played (Juan Martin del Potro vs James Blake), my son was born at 3:32 am.  This week marks his 1st birthday.  As we celebrate the first year of his life, the day of his birth will always be linked to memories of the Australian Open.

The 2011 Australian Open begins on Monday.  I am sure many of the players, fans, and announcers will be remembering the tragedy of the floods.  As England and Australia come together for cricket, England’s players committed to donating part of their match fees to the flood victims.

Hopefully, these sporting events will be an opportunity for the world to come together and help out the country.  In the midst of tragedy, there may not be a better time for the Australian Open and sports to make a difference.

Australia on my mind

This past week, Australia has been on my mind due to the tragedy with the floods and deaths in the country.  This coming week, Australia will be on my mind as it’s associated with one of the best days of my life – the birth of my son.  It’s strange that two of the best things in my life (my son and my wife) are linked to Australia.  Yet sadly, so is tragedy.

From the tragedy of the floods to the triumph of sports, Australia is in the spotlight.  For me, this is a time to celebrate and remember Australia.  If Australia is on your mind, please donate to help out the victims of the floods in Brisbane.

If you want to help, here’s more information on how you can donate – Queensland Floods.

Bay Bridge (Flickr: sanbeiji), Australian Open (Flickr: jojof)

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32 Comments leave one →
  1. January 15, 2011 10:02 pm

    Great post Jeremy, and yes, tragedies do bring people together.
    And we have donated to Queensland Flood Relief but important to note that flooding is affecting a wider area than just Brisbane. Other States are also affected. The scale of this flooding is incredible.

    • January 15, 2011 10:08 pm

      I have donated as well Jim. I know other areas are flooded but I know the big focus and clean up is on Brisbane. The link I put at the end is for Queensland because many other areas are affected as well. It’s amazing what damage this flood has done.

  2. January 16, 2011 12:39 am

    What a lovely post Jeremy. Thank you for caring so much about our country, as you would with any country facing this crisis. We hope that you can come and visit us one day, maybe even catch a game of the Australian Open on your son’s birthday. Just let us know when you are coming to watch the cricket, so we can tell our boys to put on a better performance for you. I think we can forgive the English for slaughtering us so badly now with all the help they are giving to those affected by the flood.
    I don’t think many people outside of Australia, realize the enormity of these floods. Queensland is twice the size of Texas and 75% of this is flooded. And now there are floods in NSW, and Victoria, and minor flooding in South Australia and Tasmania. One thing the floods are doing is stopping the massive bush fires we usually have at this time of the year. Australia is a harsh land. It was only a year ago that these places that are now flooded were parched dry with drought and begging for water. What can you do? You are at Mother Nature’s mercy. Perhaps that is why Australian’s can bounce back so well, as they are used to adapting and surviving in an unforgiving land.
    It’s the stories of the lives lost that breaks your heart, especially the children. It makes you realize how lucky you are and gives you that shove to make sure you hug your children more and let them know how much you love them.
    Happy Birthday to your son! Celebrate it.

    • January 16, 2011 2:27 am

      As I said, I’ve never been to Australia but it seems I have a lot of ties there these days. I hope the country recovers soon and that Aussies rally around each other to help one another out. It’s definitely a tragedy but hopefully things recover soon.

      I admit that I want to protect my kids and keep them safe. When tragedy strikes and people die, it does remind you how precious life is. As I celebrate my son’s birthday this week and watch the Australian Open, I will remember Australia. Many people around the world will remember Australia. While it may take years to rebuild, let’s hope the spirits of Aussies rebound quickly.

  3. January 16, 2011 2:03 am

    definitely been a crazy week here in australia, and as jim mentioned its not just queensland anymore. victoria is copping its share now. also, while the floods were at their worst in queensland, bushfires were raging through western australia.
    i also believe sri lanka and brazil have lost huge amounts of life in mudslides caused by floods at the same time.

    on a happier note, i not a huge tennis fan, but the aussie open here in melbourne is a great time to be in town, there is just so much happening. be sure to lock it in for future travel plans!

    • January 16, 2011 2:24 am

      I knew about the mudslides in Brazil. There’s so much tragedy going on right now. However, there always seems to be tragedy somewhere in the world. I hope that recovery happens soon in Australia but from what I have been reading, it’s going to be a while before everyone is out of danger.

      For the Aussie Open, it looks like such a great event that Australians are so proud of! I am sure things will be a bit more subdued this year with the floods but I look forward to watching and hope it is an event the country can rally around.

  4. January 16, 2011 6:12 am

    Ashamed to say I was one of the many that didn’t appreciate the scale of this till reading the post and comments.

    • January 16, 2011 9:47 pm

      Yes, it has definitely gotten more dangerous since the floods first started. It seems Australia isn’t out of danger yet but let’s hope the flood waters dissipate soon.

  5. January 16, 2011 12:14 pm

    Very thoughtful perspective on tragic events (particularly the current one in Australia) and the strength and kindness of the human spirit. Also enjoyed reading about your personal joy on the birth of your son. Happy Birthday to the little guy!

    • January 16, 2011 9:52 pm

      I think there are different examples of the strength of the human spirit all over this planet. Unfortunately, tragedies like this happen too often.

      Thanks for the birthday wishes for my son. I was talking to my wife tonight about the Australian Open. She didn’t care too much but I explained how much I connected the event to the birth. Given the amount of pain she was in and the fact she was busy, I don’t think she had the same connection to it as I did! :)

  6. January 16, 2011 1:07 pm

    Great post, I think it definitely reminds us of the power of nature, all the technology in the world couldn’t prevent tragedies like these. And now 500 people killed in Brazil through flooding and mud slides, its seems nowhere is safe.

    • January 16, 2011 9:53 pm

      Yes, Brazil deserves attention and support as well. In the midst of tragedy, it reminds us how human we really are. There is not much we can do when these tragedies happen but come together and help each other out.

  7. Andrea permalink
    January 16, 2011 10:34 pm

    Great post! Every day I learn more and more about the tragedy currently affecting my adopted home. How kind of you to care.

    • January 16, 2011 10:50 pm

      When you look at the tragedies that have happened here in the US, it helps you understand how people rise up and care about one another through tragedy. I admit I don’t always care but I have a special connection to Australia and the tragedy there is overwhelming.

  8. January 16, 2011 10:53 pm

    You always have passionate posts that stir up the “humanity” in all of us Jeremy! This one is no exception and is a reminder of how we become so desensitized to such tragic events happening all around us everyday! In the end, it’s all about our “neighbor” ,whether they are right next door or across many time zones, and showing some empathy in a time of crisis! You are a straight up “ambassador” that compels us to think a little deeper, and for that, I thank you! Have a great celebration with your son and family on his upcoming birthday!

    • January 17, 2011 9:45 am

      Thanks Mark. Helping our neighbor will be a focus of the new blog. As a traveler, I want to be aware of what is going on because my personal experiences don’t allow me to see the world the same way. In this situation, I do have a connection with Australia even though I’ve never been there so I just feel saddened by the situation.

      Thanks for the birthday wishes for my son. We reminisced last night about his birth so I look forward to the celebrating his first year.

  9. January 17, 2011 12:08 am

    The unfortunate aspect is that sometimes, tragedy, whether small or big, happens for a reason … to give people that “wake up” call. The call to realize what’s really important in each and everyone’s life.

    I wish the Australian floods were broadcasted or at least given more coverage in the US news, as most of the information I’ve heard and seen have come straight from eyewitness accounts tweeting them. I do hope that conditions improve and people there can start rebuilding their lives.

    • January 17, 2011 9:48 am

      If there is any good that comes from tragedy, it is people coming together and changing the way they live. I think this happened with 9/11. However, we sometimes forget the lessons we learned and go back to our old ways. You never want to see anyone die, especially in tragic ways like this. However, there can be some good that come of this as people realize what matters in life. When disaster strikes, we realize how life is not about things but the people in our lives.

      I’m hoping the Australian Open helps bring some more awareness to the situation there.

  10. January 17, 2011 12:56 am

    what a beautiful post jeremy. you know, even amidst incredible hardship, i think it’s important to remember that life goes on in wonderful ways too…like your little son growing a year. these are the things that also serve as a points of reference for our empathy for others’ loss and make us want to help out total strangers. so great of you to encourage us to do so :)

    • January 17, 2011 9:50 am

      Even in tragedy, there can be beauty that is found. Somewhere in Australia, new babies are being born during this just like that little girl born 9/11/2001 that was killed in Tucson. Life can go on and happen in the midst of tragedy. Hopefully, tragedies have the benefit of bringing people closer together and teaching us about what matters in life.

  11. January 17, 2011 5:55 am

    i almost cried when i heard about the 13 year old boy sacrificing himself for his brother. but australia is a strong country and will be able to bounce back stronger

    • January 17, 2011 9:40 am

      As a father of two boys, I felt the same way. It’s so hard to hear of stories like that. Hopefully, stories like that will be inspiring and will change people’s lives. Let’s hope people recover quickly.

  12. January 17, 2011 12:16 pm

    Very inspiring post and I love how you’ve tied in your memories of Australia and found the positive in such a tragedy, while reminding us all that we can help even though we may be far away.

  13. January 17, 2011 12:35 pm

    Thanks for the concern mate. I’m in the US at the moment, and since hearing about the flood, have been worried for some of my buddies in Brisbane. They’ve been on my mind too.

    From Lachy

    • January 17, 2011 1:15 pm

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts Lachy! Living here in the US, we have had our share of tragedies. It’s only natural to extend that concern and desire to help to Australia.

  14. January 17, 2011 12:46 pm

    Great post Jeremy. It’s always so humbling to read about everything that complete strangers do to help out their fellow humans. Thanks so much for doing your part and raising awareness for this horrible tragedy.

    • January 17, 2011 1:17 pm

      Thanks Adam. Tragedies are more meaningful if we have a connection to a place. Tragedies happen all the time but as travelers, we have been to and experienced so many places that if something happens there, we immediately have a connection that can inspire us to help.

  15. January 17, 2011 7:50 pm

    Great article Jeremy. Amongst the desperation it has been uplifting seeing the reactions of the people who are suffering the most, and those that are helping the affected out. An article last night in one of the poorer suburbs, of a guy who having been refused house insurance, has now lost EVERYTHING, and he just smiled and said “no worries mate, it’s happened before, we’ll be OK”. Phew, the strength! Have a good birthday with your son – hopefully you can get to watch some of the tennis too!

    • January 17, 2011 10:10 pm

      Thanks John. I think that is the one good thing that comes out of this is how people help each other. As for the guy you mention, I can’t imagine having an attitude like that. However, when disaster comes, you are just thankful you are alive. I actually was thinking about this yesterday and said that as long as I have my wife and kids, I could handle losing anything else. I think things like this teach us what matters in life. Hopefully, people will be able to recover quickly from this disaster.

      Thanks for the birthday wishes! I do plan on watching a little tennis this week. Caught some of it last night! :)

  16. January 17, 2011 9:03 pm

    Excellent post! Thanks for linking to websites that take donations. It sounds like you have a real connection to Australia. You should visit with your family one day! It’s a beautiful country. When I watch images of the devastation caused by the flood it reminds me of Hurricane Katrina.

    • January 17, 2011 10:08 pm

      I remember living through Hurricane Hugo in 1989. I lived in Myrtle Beach and we had about 20 people staying at our house because we were a little more inland. I definitely understand the tragedy of that type of stuff. When disasters like that happen, you appreciate the help.

      As for Australia, it is definitely on the list of places to go. As I said, my wife was there in 2004 and I am sure she would love to go back. Maybe I could go during the Australian Open! :)


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