Monday, February 9, 2009

A Sad Hot Wind

Kate and I officially cemented our status as a ‘pair’ of traveling volleyballers with a trip to Melbourne, Victoria last weekend for the Vic Open. What was meant to be a carefree sporting trip instead became a sobering brush with a terrible reality. I’m not sure how ‘international’ this news is but on Saturday – our tournament day – in a climactic finish to a half-month long heat wave, the city of Melbourne experienced the hottest temperature ever recorded: a dry 47 Celcius. Appalingly, and in a very rare circumstance, this heat was accompanied by 50 km/h winds. For roughly five hours in the middle of the day, the outdoor experience was surreal. I felt like I was standing in front some giant hot hair dryer. Beach volleyball became quite dangerous and our games were postponed until Sat evening and Sunday. Kate and I were fortunate in an air conditioned hotel room during the worst of it. And to make the experience even stranger, the maximum temperature on the following day (Sunday) was just 23C.

Sadly, one bad Saturday was enough to cause the worst natural disaster in the Aussie history. Sparked and fueled by the extreme heat and wind, dozens of bush fires tore through rural communities in the beautiful state of Victoria. The fires moved very fast. Multiple towns were leveled in hours. Thousands of homes were destroyed. The death toll, now at 170 people, is expected to continue rise for several more days as fire fighters search through the ashes. I can’t even imagine being tasked with such a responsibility. I find it difficult even to think of the many Australians who died in their cars as they tried in vain to outrun the smoke and heat.

It brings an overwhelming sadness. And I can’t help but realize that Kate and I have been living a fortunate life in recent months. We laugh and enjoy the daily things without need even for much formality or reserve much less any serious concerns. The terrible news streaming in from Victoria, of the unsuspecting and the innocent, is sobering. Surely I am meant not only to appreciate and be thankful for the good times but also use them to prepare for the unexpected troubles to come.

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