Surmounting Disaster

AT a time of natural disaster, like the earthquake in northern California, people find the strength to rouse themselves to extraordinary heights of compassion and helpfulness. We've seen this in the rescue efforts in the quake zone, and we'll continue to see it as communities draw together to rebuild. This inner strength and resilience is a primary resource in surmounting the tragedy.

A lot of hopes and dreams, as well as buildings and roadways, were shaken by Tuesday night's quake. Families worried about relatives, people felt newly acquired homes shudder beneath their feet, thousands saw the euphoria of a Bay Area World Series dissolve in an instant. Human vulnerability became a universal feeling - for the executive at work in the financial district just as much as the homeless person.

Events such as earthquakes are often thought of as inexorable, as ``acts of God.'' In fact, it's from God, our divine source, that we derive the strength and intelligence to rise above disaster and learn from the experience.

The geologic causes, though not the timing, of quakes, and the technological advances to protect against them, are understood. Clearly, the extent of damage in the San Francisco Bay Area and nearby cities indicates that even more can be done to prevent loss of life from quakes.

But, again, the greatest resources limiting damage and bolstering resolve are the love, generosity, and prayers of neighbor for neighbor, person for person. That reenforcing, positive humanity holds off the dark impulses of looting and exploitation even as it generates help and support from every part of the country and world.

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