Five Minutes of Silence
By Jacques Frija
Tuesday 26 August 2003
Five minutes of silence in France at noon Monday September 15.
Everyone will stop work. Cars will stop. Their passengers will get out. France will gather its thoughts.
If other countries want to join us, they will show their solidarity as we did for the somewhat less than 3000 dead of the World Trade Center.
Five minutes for the thousands of deaths in France.
Five minutes for the dead in other countries attacked by the heat wave.
Five minutes for the old, the physically handicapped, the weakened sick people who died, or who survived, further weakened by the heat so that no one knows whether they will be able to survive this shock.
Five minutes for all those who took care of them and also suffered the heat.
While there were no child deaths due to dehydration because mothers and fathers received a health education to avoid such a slaughter, five minutes to understand why our parents, who gave us life, died in solitude, the family absent or distant during the vacation, in the indifference and anonymity of the city, with its paradox of distance in the very nearness of neighbors, the weakening of our physical contacts in a universe of omni-directional communication.
Five minutes in the schools to open an instructive discussion about solidarity.
Five minutes to reflect on the patching up of our unraveled social fabric.
Five minutes so that torn up families don't forget life's duty.
Five minutes to prevent this drama ever repeating itself. The health risk of a heat wave, now having been identified by everyone, we must, as though for children effect a preventative, solidary health education.
Five minutes to think that France may be exposed to other totally unexpected climactic risks like the storm of 1999 and this year's heat wave and to anticipate new emergency plans.
Five minutes to start thinking about the improvement of the responsiveness of our alert systems, with no mixing up of risks: ozone pollution in place of the heat wave.
How many deaths were due to ozone and to heat?
Five minutes to consider that our population is aging and that apart from the handicapped and the ill, our social solidarity is a political emergency that demands an action plan to counter this collapse of humanity.
The demography of the aged, the handicapped, the ill is known and it's a national duty, beyond any political divisions, to open our eyes to the present situation and plan for the future before it overtakes us as it just has.
Five minutes to remember that we will all age together and that it's a duty to prepare for the old age of our population.
Five minutes to say to ourselves, "Never again!"
Professor Jacques Frija is the Head of Radiology at the Saint-Louis Hospital (Paris)
Translation: Truthout French language correspondent Leslie Thatcher.
Jump to TO Features for Wednesday 27 August 2003