Tuesday, February 10, 2009

The Australian fires

Like millions of others, I've been watching and reading in horror of the horrible fires raging over in Australia. What makes this horror even worse is that - as it always seems with forest fires - some of them were deliberately set.

I remember a few years ago, the province of Ontario, our neighbouring province, had massive forest fires. And here in Quebec, we could smell it and feel the grit in our eyes. We knew the fires were hundreds of miles away, but we could still feel and smell them. That's the power of such a huge fire.

Three years ago, I was in Palm Desert, CA. We saw some fires burning and after we got home, there was news of some larger forest fires. Having finally seen how dry it is there, I could only then imagine the devastation that such fires can bring upon us.

And now, the Australians, no stranger to forest fires, are coming upon the second largest city, Melbourne. They're moving too fast for some people to escape and, so far, the death toll is well over 100.

What do you say about someone who deliberately sets a fire like this? We can hope that the criminals didn't mean to take lives, they just wanted to experience the fire, but the fact is they did take lives. And they changed the lives of thousands of people - and may have set a course of mental health in thousands. How many of them are going to be petrified of fire? How many are going to have post traumatic stress disorder? How many of those children are going to fear for their lives or the lives of their parents over and over again? How many are going to need help but will deny it or slip through the cracks, only to become sicker later on?

Is there something you can say to someone who sets fires like this? Are they mentally ill or just plain evil? I just read the book, The Shack, by William Young, and I know that whoever set this fire is someone's son or daughter. Could be someone's friend, cousin, neighbour. What happened?

In the meantime, I offer my own prayers and healing thoughts to those in Australia who have suffered and are suffering. I wish I could say something that would help.