Monday, August 27, 2007

Report From Eyewitness To Greece Burning


Athens, August 27, 2007

This was a weekend of National Tragedy here in Greece. People from all over the country sat glued to their television sets, calling friends and loved ones in villages all over Greece. We sat fascinated and horrified by the sights and sounds of villages, people, animals burning. There were too few planes, too few firemen, no organization, no planned routes of escape.

The heroes of the weekend turned out to be the newscasters who hour after hour took calls from frightened people begging for help, who then called various Mayors and authorities to send help to those stranded. Amazingly for three days there were no accusations and the country pulled together as a whole. The other heroes were the citizens, the ordinary Greek citizens, who left the safety of their homes and ran to help with the raging fires, with whatever they had in hand, usually branches from trees. The villagers who with tractors and trucks fought to preserve their villages. Alas, it didn't work. It is the fourth day and still Greece is burning.

Friday night we sat and waited for news of the mother and her four children who had called her husband to say she was leaving the village which was close to burning. She and the children never made it. They were found on the road in their car with the mother hugging the four little ones. This is an indescribable horror for us as a nation. We saw videos of burned cars with their victims in their metal tombs, while relatives tried to identify the occupants. Hour after hour, the television relentlessly recorded new catastrophes and we were unable to shut off the sets. New fires, here, there, everywhere. New anxieties about loved ones, even here in Athens when Hymittos was purposefully set on fire and that fire engulfed a 5 story apartment building. The Attiki Road was closed and all cars were routed right into the fire area.

We returned from our vacation in the Peloponissos last week. The natural beauty and elegance of the mountains and the sea is an unbelievable sight. Or was. To think that now most of it is gone. To think that maybe the grandmas and grandpas who rode along those narrow country roads on their donkeys and who herded their sheep and goats may be a thing of the past. Imagine that we may never again sit in a villager's house and eat and drink everything which is from their own land. Imagine we will never be able to buy fruit, eggs, honey and wine at the road-side stands. How is it possible in only four days? How can our lives change so much?

The press is starting to ask the probing questions. I will leave that to them. Clearly these apocalyptic happenings are not by chance. Is it a new form of terrorism? Is it political?

For us, those who fervently love the earth and its people, the question is: What can we do? How can we help? Whom do we contact? The answer is simple for those of us living here. When the fires are put out, we will go and visit and see what is needed. We will provide whatever we can.

Jane Ressos-Bizos,
Athens, Greece


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