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A LETTER FROM PRESIDENT RUNTE ON THE TSUNAMI DISASTER

Dear Colleagues,

As an international community dedicated to improving our world through learning and understanding, it is appropriate and important for us to come together at Old Dominion University in a moment of thoughtful silence in respect for those who have lost their lives in the last two weeks.

Over the vacation, a group of students, faculty and administrators came together to plan a community reaction. We would ask that you all spend a moment in your first classes to discuss the meaning and impact of this disaster. A number of our students have lost families, friends and neighbors. Others have lost their homes. Let us offer them our expressions of respect and regret.

In addition, we would like to do something special to mark this event. There will be a memorial service at 12:30 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 18, in room 102 of the Mills Godwin Jr. Life Sciences Building. In addition, there will be a fund-raising event on Saturday, Feb. 19, at Webb University Center. We have decided to direct funds raised to the International Red Cross, and the United Way of Hampton Roads has agreed to facilitate this process.

The massive earthquake and ensuing tsunami in Southeast and South Asia constitute one of the greatest humanitarian disasters in recent world history. Not only have more than 150,000 people in more than 11 countries lost their lives, but millions have been left homeless and without means of making a living. Fishing boats have been destroyed, rice fields swamped with sea water, and coconut and other trees uprooted. Infrastructure has been destroyed. More than one-third of those who lost their lives were children and many of those who survived are now orphans. There are serious health challenges, including the need for clean drinking water and food. In Banda Aceh, in northwest Indonesia, only about 17 of the 300 school teachers have survived.

The countries most seriously affected are Indonesia, with about 100,000 people killed on Sumatra alone; Sri Lanka with some 30,000 lost; India with more than 10,000; and Thailand with 5,000. Somalia, Myanmar, the Maldives, Malaysia, Tanzania, Bangladesh and Kenya have also suffered losses.

It is hard for us to conceive the enormity of the disaster, to even imagine what it must be like to lose everything we have ever owned or cared about-- family members and friends, houses, sources of livelihood, photos and possessions we have worked hard to obtain. Yet, we all have experienced personal loss. We have all been touched by the photos of people carried away by the waves and of our fellow human beings searching for the ones they love. It is at such times that we share rage at our helplessness. We cannot avoid such tragedies. All human life is fragile and all of our constructions on this earth can be so rapidly and efficiently erased by the forces of nature.

From such tragic events, however, spring great gestures of human nobility. People across the globe reach out to help each other. At Old Dominion University, let us be part of a new wave of kindness to sweep our world. Thank you for reading this message and for your participation.

Sincerely yours,

Roseann Runte, President
Chris Drake, Professor

This article was posted on: January 10, 2005

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