Rush To Help

On the heels of the tsunami came another wave — the huge outpouring of support from people (local kids, too) knocking on the doors of Save the Children

In their redbrick offices along the Saugatuck River, the people running the save the children organization are accustomed to thinking about the incomprehensible. The 44 million orphans expected to populate Africa in just five years? That’s a new figure for this planet. The number of people starving in the world? It just can’t be counted. But then someone walks in the door, fresh from some smoking trouble spot, with a story that brings a sudden clarity.

The man with the tale this time is Dennis Walto, who has stood knee-deep in bad water in a dozen of the world’s worst hellholes. As with everyone else these days, he was thinking of the recent tsunami. Tall and lean, with striking blue eyes and a gift for telling the tale, Walto would fit in perfectly in a paneled law office. Instead, he’s surrounded by gray cloth walls and his chair creaks every time he gesticulates, which is often — especially as he recalls recent occurrences in Indonesia.

“During the tsunami, a woman, Epa, was nine months pregnant when the wave hit the tip of Sumatra. She was one of the clients in our midwives class — all the midwives, ten of them, were killed in the tsunami. And her son, who was five, was with her, but the current was too strong and took him away from her. When the water subsided, she went out looking for him and couldn’t find him. “Then she thought she heard his voice. She looked up and there was her son on the top of a mosque clinging to the minaret on the very top where he had grabbed on at the last second as the wave was pulling him out to death. Well, she was glad he was alive but he was so scared he wouldn’t let go and she couldn’t get him down. So, nine months pregnant, she climbed the mosque, got him and climbed back down. She doesn’t know how she did it. I don’t know how she did it. But she did it.”

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