Tragedy brings the community together as a single family

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

People have spoken at length, here and elsewhere, about the differences between living in the United States and in Costa Rica, but recent experiences have lead me to what may be the heart of the matter, at least for many of us.

There was a disaster in our small area near Lake Arenal.  A man and his son were swept downhill by a landslide and buried beneath tons of debris.

And everything seemed to stop.

This was not a case of a man who jumped in his car and went to work 25 miles from home to an office filled with strangers who had all come from other areas 25 miles away.  This was a man who walked to work or rode a few miles with someone who picked him up on the road.  He wasn’t hitchhiking, just walking and waiting.  He was a man who worked with his hands, milking cows, cutting brush, moving stones.  He was a man with a family, and everyone seemed to know him, his wife, his children.  They knew his parents, too, and his parents’ families.  They were related, intertwined, a community.

And then he fell; he and his young son.  And everything seemed to stop.

Everything except the community.  They were there, in force.  Not just fire and rescue, but men who left work with shovels and picks.  Men who had to work, but who came after work, or were sent by their employers.  More picks.  More shovels.   They went down into the arroyo, 30 feet below the road.  They stood in the mud and the rain and worked.  There was danger of further landslides, collapses, and still they worked.  They refused to come up to the trucks where women waited with food and water, so provisions were thrown down into the arroyo for them, or carried down in baskets.

Women were there with their children who could not be left at home.  Women who stood and waited with the family; women who gave support and comfort and hope.  Women with strong hands and strong hearts.

And Gringos were there too, saying, “We are one family, one community.”   The strong worked alongside of the men in the arroyo.  The women helped with food and support.

We are one family, one community.

Today we celebrate a Mass for the family.  Our family.  Here in Costa Rica, we know that we are united.  That death can separate us from loved ones, but that the family goes on.

And somehow it seems that here, in Costa Rica, we are finally getting it right.

Victoria Torley
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