Here’s a story that woke me up:
(CBS) Five weeks ago, an earthquake struck Pakistan, and then the event seemed to disappear. It disappeared from our newspapers, from our television screens and from our minds.
Perhaps it was just one natural disaster too many this year. But here’s the aftershock: the situation in Pakistan is worsening by the day. The death toll continues to rise and is now close to 90,000.
Three million people are still living without shelter and a harsh winter is weeks away. The United Nations says conditions in Pakistan are worse than after the tsunami and it is the biggest humanitarian nightmare the UN has ever dealt with.
Even if you’ve read about the earthquake, even if you’ve seen the pictures, nothing can prepare you for being there. It’s hard to imagine that all the destruction happened in two minutes.
The towns look like they had been bombarded by a brutal air force for weeks. It’s hard to believe that this happened five weeks ago. It could have been yesterday. Nothing has changed. Even the horizon is still strewn with rubble.
There are sights which defy belief. Streets are littered with clothing, sent up by charities and discarded by people. They don’t need tattered shirts. They need shelter, food, water, medical care.
The large relief agencies and governments are doing what they can in the cities and the towns, building tent cities for the homeless and handing out food.
But go up into the mountains and you will find a different story. Helicopters drop food to villages, but there are no relief workers on the ground. Except for 13 paramedics from New York City.
They came to Pakistan with no backing or support or agenda except to help. They wound up in Pakistani Kashmir, a disputed territory of undisputed beauty.
When they were dropped off here, Chris Summers was surprised to learn they were the only aid workers there. “I can’t believe we haven’t seen anyone else in this valley,” Summers says. “There’s such a need here. You know? And we’re isolated here. I don’t really know what’s happening in the rest of the country. But in this valley, Jeelum Valley, an enormous need and how is it possible that it’s just us, you know, 13 knuckleheads from New York here?”
Knuckleheads? This is Osama bin Laden country, dotted with training camps for jihadists, where Islam is at its most radical and America is seen as the enemy.
But now, people were walking for miles to be treated by the Americans. Some 200 a day were making their way to the clinic, people who were being cared for for the first time since the earthquake.
Listen to this:
And, as it learned in Indonesia, when the U.S. military went in after the tsunami, nothing does this as well as helping people after a disaster.
This is not why the New York medics came here, of course. They didn’t come to win hearts and minds, but to save lives. Hearts and minds just seemed to follow, and that’s fine with Steve Muth.
“We can inoculate an entire valley, if we’re lucky, against radical Islam,” says Muth. “And it’s so simple. I’m just a paramedic. It’s just a bandage. It’s not a $100 million dollar ad campaign from Madison Avenue. It’s not, you know, it’s not complicated. Could something work better to change somebody’s mind? I can’t think of anything.”
C’mon USA, we can do this. Karen Hughes, are you on it?
Here’s a story that woke me up: