Friday, November 30, 2007

25th Day of Kislev

A few years ago, my daughter and I were watching the local news. Thanksgiving had just passed and the station had taken a viewer’s poll to ask how people felt about Christmas decorations going up before Thanksgiving. I will never forget one viewer’s response because it brought us a good chuckle. The viewer had suggested that Thanksgiving be changed to September to allow everyone more time to shop. It seemed like forgive me, such a stupid comment. What stopped this woman from beginning her Christmas shopping before Thanksgiving? Was there something about this Christmas ritual that we didn’t understand? Or had she lost the true meaning of Christmas… and Thanksgiving for that matter?

Hanukkah begins next Tuesday, December 4. Some may wonder why it bounces around the calendar from one year to the next. Actually, it doesn’t. It begins on the same date every year on the Hebrew calendar - the 25th night in the month of Kislev. The Hebrew calendar is based on the moon, unlike the Gregorian calendar, which is based on the sun. Therefore, new moons dictate the beginning of new months and those days are always different when matched to our Gregorian calendar.

So, I need to finish my holiday shopping by Tuesday - hence the reason for a lack of postings this week. Family duty calls. Family traditions and the promise of 8 nice days of celebration, including a holiday party on Sunday, have sent my typing fingers into a frenzied state way beyond the keyboard and froze my blogging brain. Instead, I have been shopping, cleaning my house, sending gifts off to relatives, wrapping presents and thinking about ways to make this Hanukkah memorable and special for my family.

When my kids were young, their questions were relentless about why we don’t have a Christmas tree, and why Santa doesn’t visit our home, and why we don’t decorate our house with lights or put candles in the windows --- like “everybody else”. Our quaint New England town is so beautiful this time of year. As you drive down our street every house really does have candles in the windows and white lights wrapped painstakingly around trees and bushes. Our house is the only one that doesn’t and I needed to help them understand that we’re “not like everyone else”, at least during the month of December.

December is my annual reminder that I am a minority in this country. Synagogues have even coined a phrase for this phenomenon: the “December dilemma”. Rabbis run workshops to help parents deal with kids’ questions and their desire to celebrate Christmas. No matter where I go in search of Hanukkah wrapping paper, candles for the menorah or dare I ask some decorations, I am always relegated to a small corner of the store with a few token decorations, some wrapping paper (if I am lucky) and paper goods that usually are leftover rejects from the year before. Sometimes I feel like people are staring at me, even feeling sorry for such uninspiring selections when the whole rest of the store boasts aisles of festive Christmas goodies. If they do, they shouldn’t. I like it this way. But it’s taken me a while to get here.

While growing up, my family never made a huge deal about Hanukkah. We usually lit the menorah and we got some presents. But the big stuff, the good stuff was saved for Christmas. Yes, my Jewish parents celebrated Christmas. And as a kid, I loved it. But after I grew up I started thinking more about my own identity and what Judaism meant to me, and Christmas just didn’t fit into the picture.

I realize that Hanukkah is a very minor holiday and some Jews will argue that it should remain that way. All the hype about Christmas, catapults Hanukkah to the head of the pack of other more important Jewish holidays. Be that as it may, the reality is that Christmas is a really fun holiday for kids, and when you are on the outside, peering through the snow covered glass and seeing those chestnuts roasting on an open fire and Santa Claus coming to town, it’s tough being a Jewish kid this time of year. I believe that creating traditions around Hanukkah is fine. Making the holiday fun and festive and special helps kids realize that although they may be different, it is an opportunity to use this distinction to create something special.

Therein has been my challenge over the past 20 years - to help my kids feel proud of being Jewish in December. From the issue of Santa - I never told my kids he is just pretend, out of respect for their friends (believe me, it would have been so much easier if I did), which meant endless explanations as to why Santa doesn’t come to our house -- “no, it’s not because you have been bad”! Christmas trees as religious symbols -- they are called “Christmas trees, for a reason!” Christmas concerts in schools, classroom Christmas parties, stores decked out with Christmas decorations etc. My kids were bombarded.

So, it became my project. I educated teachers and went into my kids’ classrooms and cooked potato latkes and taught everyone how to play dreidel. We listened to Hanukkah music. As a family we read lots of Hanukkah stories (I have a huge collection of picture books that I collected over the years). I pull boxes down from the attic too! We’ve collected decorations over the years, have our own traditions around the eight nights and even paint and decorate a “Hanukkah box” every year to hold all our gifts. I realized that the envy doesn’t come from wanting to celebrate Christmas; it comes from wanting to celebrate something.

Families need traditions and rather than wallowing in the Christmas hype, I would much rather enjoy the season for what it is because it is part of the fabric of our community. After all, we are a nation of many cultures and it’s exactly that diversity that enriches all of our lives. I am confident that my kids don’t have any Christmas angst. I have taught them to take it all in and enjoy the Christmas splendor with Jewish eyes and then freely share their holiday with other’s. We celebrate Hanukkah with all it’s brilliance, the beauty of lighting the menorah (there is nothing more magnificent than our family standing together before all of our 6 glowing menorahs on the 8th night), celebrating with family and friends, exchanging gifts, preparing favorite holiday foods, reflecting on the meaning of the holiday and listening to beautiful traditional music.

So when most of you are running frantic in a couple of weeks, I will be recovering from my eight days of celebration with my feet up, enjoying the craziness around me, and probably posting a lot more in my blog.

Monday, November 26, 2007

7 words or less...

Legend has it, that at one time there was a World Championship of the Beauty of Languages. The Republic of Estonia took second place after the Italians with the phrase: “'sхida tasa ьle silla' (Go slowly over the bridge). In celebration of the country’s 90th birthday, the Estonian Ministry of Education and Science is sponsoring a competition to choose the most beautiful language of the world. Students from every corner of the globe have been invited to participate. The entries must contain an audio presentation of a sentence made up of one to seven words.

A Beauty Pageant of Language… for students. What a unique opportunity for a global competition where beauty takes on an entirely different meaning. A student would have to ask: What does beauty mean to me? Is it outright physical attractiveness that is most important, and how can that be conveyed in words? Would it mean that the words’ sounds are the most important criteria? Or perhaps a child might conclude that beauty is a combination of special qualities and therefore might choose words that are pleasing in both sound and meaning?

A child, at any age, is bombarded with images of beauty through the media, in school, with toys and video games, books, even within their own families. To take the object out of one’s interpretation of beauty is an interesting challenge. Unlike viewing beautiful artwork or beautiful scenery or beautiful people, this challenge is different. It reaches deeper into a person’s soul to discover beauty that can’t be seen. It would be fascinating to hear the 7 or fewer words our kids would choose. I am not sure what I would choose.

Instead of judging beauty by its appearance, it is judging beauty the way it should be judged. It would be quite a lesson to be taught and what a gift if a child is able to learn it.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

A Gardener Plants Seeds for the Future

There is a man by the name of Catalino Tapia of Redwood City, California, who came to the United States, from Mexico, at age 20 with $6 in his pocket. Over the past 43 years, he has worked as a baker and a machine operator. His education never went beyond 6th grade. However, through hard work he eventually built a successful gardening business. He married and raised two children. One son graduated from Boalt School of Law at UC Berkeley and is now an attorney in Los Angeles.

This story is not about this young immigrant’s rise to success, although it easily could have been. It is about a man who sees the inimitable value of education and his philanthropic vision. Mr. Tapia, with his son’s legal help, founded The Bay Area Gardener’s Foundation. It’s purpose: to give college scholarships to low-income students from the Bay area. He is a man of modest means, and from what I gleaned from an interview I recently listened to, of modest personality, as well. He believes “it is his duty to pass along the prosperity he has earned, to draw community members together for a shared goal and to be accountable for the well-being of the next generation.” Hmmm.

His Board consists of a dozen other immigrant gardeners and other community members who see the value in helping struggling students take the edge off some of their financial responsibilities by offering funds for books, transportation and other incidental expenses -- costs that may not amount to a lot for some, but for others it is the difference of working an extra job to raise these funds. Any student who has at least 2.5 GPA is eligible, even if he/she is an undocumented alien. Everyone on the Board agrees that, “"no matter what, they're going to have their education. So even though they don't have their papers and even though they might not be able to get a job with their Social Security number, no one will be able to take away their education."

The main group that the Foundation has reached so far has been Latino High School students. Only 13 percent of U.S.-born Latino adults in California have a bachelor's degree, according to the nonpartisan Public Policy Institute of California. For immigrant Latinos, it is 5 percent. This is a startling figure. The US Congress has failed to pass the DREAM Act (Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors), on numerous occasions. This Act, if passed, would allow undocumented students who grew up in the US to qualify for a permanent Green card. What better incentive to encourage students to continue their studies?

Education is the vehicle by which millions of individuals can better their lives. In one little corner of our country, one man has made this his mission and I applaud him for his sincerity and commitment to his cause.

As we approach the Thanksgiving holiday, we might all take a second glance at how we can reach out to other communities by volunteering our time or resources. One of the Bay Area Gardener Foundation donors said it perfectly:

“It's extraordinary to see a body of people who are struggling to make it in America also struggling for other people's children. ... Is that not grasping the American dream?"

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Hello, Nice to Meet You

I have been writing this blog anonymously because, especially as a novice, I am most comfortable writing this way. It feels safe. If my writing is terrible, nobody knows that I am the author. If I offend people, I don’t have to take their fury too personally. If I stir up controversy, it is a quiet risk. And, I never really need to take true responsibility for what I write because nobody knows where it comes from. Ah, the beauty, and the curse, of the World Wide Web.

Then, somebody whose writing and ideas I respect immensely convinced me that I had to put my actual name to my writing. If I want to have any credibility, it has to start with an honest relationship between reader and writer. Hiding behind my words means camouflaging some real truth - particularly the truth about me. It seems pretty hypocritical that a lot of what I end up writing about involves expectations of truth and honesty and I can’t even reveal who I am. Not that anybody really cares anyway -- this is more about me than any reader.

It is significant for me, because from this point on my words are truly my own, they do not belong to some anonymous person typing away on a random keyboard. I am ready to take ownership of my writing because what I write means a lot to me and I deserve to take the credit and the fall for whatever comes my way.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

College Tours: Does your Guide Own a Mac or a PC?

In response to a parent’s question regarding the necessity of owning a laptop in college, the two leaders of our tour responded:

“I have a Mac”, the other, “I have a PC”.

I laughed the way my youngest daughter describes a laugh that you can’t let anyone see: “I was laughing inside my head”. Other than my daughter and her friend, I don’t think anyone else saw the humor, but it was as if we were watching a Mac commercial unfold in front of us. As the tour progressed, I kept seeing it over and over again -the stark differences between these two students: in their appearance, their response to questions, their knowledge about the school, their perceptions, their outlooks.

College tours are supposed to give you and your child a good sense of a school - to help you decide if it would be a “good fit”, as we are forever reminded by guidance counselors and admissions directors. This is my third go around on the college circuit and still I am baffled. If either my PC or Mac friend had been the sole leader on this tour, our impressions of the school would have been entirely different. In fact, we may not have even stuck around for the whole thing. So many times we have literally crossed a school off the list because of a disconnect with the tour guide - and in some excruciating cases we’ve even “ditched” early by hanging back and making a run for it.

It was only pure luck that we got this dueling duo -- nobody could decide how to fairly divide our relatively small group, so we agreed to all venture out together. You have to figure that every school attracts a spectrum of students, but there also had to be some common thread that bound these two, something that attracted both of them to the same school and something that the admissions office believed would make them both good “fits”. They both were very friendly and outgoing, qualities that make great tour guides - but it was so evident that their interactions, viewpoints and experiences at this school were profoundly different.

By the end, as frustrated as the two guides may actually have been with each other, at their expense, unquestionably this was my best college tour. How else would we have seen such a rich portrayal of the life of a student on this campus? And as colleges and universities have certain reputations for attracting certain “types” of students, there is no doubt that all types exist on every campus. If these two could co-exist on this small campus, and even be enthusiastic about it, just like the Mac and PC are finally on speaking terms, then it is encouraging to think that the admissions offices use some broad criteria to find that “best fit”.

I have learned over the years that the college search process is entirely subjective. Sure, Admissions offices offer objective measures like test scores, grades, admission rates and student/faculty ratios to help us evaluate whether a school might be a good choice, but in reality it’s the tour and the information session that packs the greatest punch. It affects our decision every time. It’s the same with acceptance decisions. Applicants submit their objective criteria but in reality it’s the subjective materials, the essay, the application and the recommendations that have the greatest influence. In the end, the choice to apply and the choice to admit is equally based on the gut feelings of the decision makers themselves.

I imagine when College Admissions Offices hires their guides, they have a set of “guide criteria”: good public speaking, friendliness, attitude, and enthusiasm about their college experience. For the future, it may be worth it for them to also ask whether they own a Mac or PC and then, they should pair up the two students to give joint tours. It may be the only way to get a true picture of a potential college. Either that or we should go back for multiple tours and visits - and who has the time for that?

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Just an update on two posts: The ten-year old who started one of the California fires and the fate of the students involved in the anti-war protest in suburban Chicago.

Regarding the California incident, there will be no charges filed against him. From the Associated Press today:

LOS ANGELES (AP) — A 10-year-old boy who admitted starting a 38,000-acre fire last month that destroyed 21 homes in northern Los Angeles County will not be charged, prosecutors said.
There was no evidence of intent by the boy who accidentally ignited brush outside his home by playing with matches, the Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office said in a statement Tuesday.
Authorities are referring the case to the Department of Children and Family Services to determine if further steps are necessary. No other information about the investigation was released because the case involves a minor.
The blaze was among more than a dozen major wildfires that blackened over 800 square miles from Los Angeles to the Mexican border. In all, 10 people were killed directly by the wildfires.
About a week after the fires were ignited, sheriff's department officials announced that they had interviewed the boy, who lived with his family in a trailer home on a ranch in Santa Clarita, and that he acknowledged starting the blaze.
Officials presented the case to the district attorney's office, but law experts had said prosecutors would have trouble getting a conviction against the boy because it would be difficult to prove intent to cause harm.

And in the West Morton High School case, the following from the Chicago Sun Times:

No students will be kicked out of a Berwyn public high school over an anti-war protest, the school superintendent said late Tuesday.

Of the 18 students suspended after a Nov. 1 sit-in at Morton West High School, 14 are due back today, Supt. Ben Nowakowski said in a statement. The remaining four, who Nowakowski said "bore more culpability for the disruption," can return Friday.

Many of the students had been threatened with expulsion.

"I don't regret the protest because I brought a lot of people to this question -- about Iraq and what it's doing to our country," senior Joshua Rodriguez said.

He and other suspended students and parents protested the possible expulsions, along with the Rainbow/PUSH Coalition and other activists, garnering national attention.

Rodriguez and others insisted their protest -- both against the Iraq war and military recruiters at their school -- was peaceful.

"They did deserve some punishment but not eight days nor the threat of expulsion," said Adam Szwarek, whose son was suspended.

"I don't think [my son] made a mistake. There is still an issue here: the military recruiters that are allowed to run rampant throughout the school."

But Nowakowski said the students severely disrupted the school day, forcing him to lock down classes.

He insisted the punishment had nothing to do with clamping down on free speech.

My final comment:

I want to believe that at the end of the day, those whose fate lies in the hands of others can expect fairness; that those in charge will act responsibly and without prejudice - so that everyone: judge, jury and the accused are all satisfied that any ruling has been handed out deliberately and with merit.

Both these cases seem resolved as such - although one could argue in the West Morton case that even though the students' exoneration was the sought after result if I were those West Morton High School parents, I would still want an explanation as to the uneven intervention on the part of the students - I am still one to always emphasize process before product.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Two Million Minutes - A Global Examination

NOTE: I viewed the film on December 5 and I have written a review

I found this You Tube video while reading an excellent blog called, "Education for the Aughts". This film documents the educational experience of 6 high school students, 2 each from the United States, China and India. The trailer alludes to the fact that the United States needs to finally have a serious dialogue about the standards of American education. Is our system adequately preparing our students to be able to compete in the 21st century? It is an interesting discussion because along with academic rigor does there also need to be a shift in our own societal expectations of the value of intense academic preparation and competition contrasted with our own perceptions of leisure time and relaxation. The bigger question is not only WILL our students be able to compete, but will they WANT TO?

The film has been accepted into the Sundance Film Festival and hopefully it will make it onto the big screen. For more information, go to the film's blog: What Should America Do?

Thursday, November 8, 2007

The Case of the Morton West High School: Who Really Should be Punished?

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
~1st Amendment to the US Constitution

The 1st Amendment represents the most fundamental right that every US citizen believes is inalienable. Regardless of whether they have studied their civics: kids know about freedom of speech and freedom of assembly - it is what being American is all about.

According to the New York Times, on November 1, 2007, the students at Morton West High School in suburban Chicago, staged a peaceful anti-war protest in their cafeteria. By the time it was over, more than a dozen students were suspended and they now face expulsion. There are two versions of the story. In a statement by the superintendent, the 1st version is as follows:

the students were informed by school administration and Berwyn Police that their actions constituted a disruption to the school day. They were afforded the opportunity to take their protest outside where they would not be impeding the educational process and, if they did so, they would face no disciplinary action. Several members of the group elected to return to their classes. Other members of the group locked arms and refused to move from their location.

After some time and negotiation, the students ultimately moved from the cafeteria to an area of the hallway adjacent to the principal's office.

The Student version continues:

Students report that they were promised that there would be no charges besides cutting classes if they took their protest outside so as not to disturb the school day. The students complied, and were led to a corner outside the cafeteria where they sang songs and held signs while classes resumed.

In either version, the students eventually complied and continued their protest in their designated space. What followed is most disturbing. Apparently school deans, counselors and even the Superintendent himself tried to change the minds of a few of the students, particularly those with high GPA’s. The school called the parents of many of the protesters, but not all of them, and offered them the opportunity to pick their students up before the close of school guaranteeing a 3-5 day suspension, the rest, 37 students were given 10 day suspensions and expulsion papers. And even worse, students, whose parents complained, were offered reduced punishments only if they signed a confession that singled out the student as the organizer of the protest.

This scenario, although much more serious in its implications, is not all that different than one that occurred in our local high school. The students, acting on reliable information, staged a sit-in in protest to a change in policy at the school. With a video camera running, the principal immediately asked the assembly to disburse. Outraged, he gathered student leaders, who had no involvement in the sit-in and threatened their leadership positions if they did not identify the protesters. The students refused to comply. Nobody was expelled but four students were suspended. Although this story was rather insignificant compared to the Morton West High School incident, there are some striking similarities.

Students should be prepared that a sit-in or protest, unless certified or organized with the administration’s support, could result in some consequences. Certainly in the case of the Morton West high school students, expulsion is definitely extreme. However at least they were given an alternative place to gather, our local students were flatly told to disburse. However, the real disturbing facts are what occurred after both of the incidences.

In both cases, students were being pressured, almost bullied to “finger” the perpetrators. The administration dangled a reward of a reduced punishment
in the case of the Morton West students, and a threat in the case of our local high school students. Where is it written in any administrator’s job description that he/she may brandish their positions of authority in such an irresponsible and a repressive manner?

Furthermore, in the case of the Morton West students, how narcissistic are those administrators who felt compelled to play “God” by protecting the reputations and records of those higher achieving students by warning them that it would be in their best interest to disburse? Whose idea was it to call some parents and give them a head’s up to their sons’ and daughters’ potential punishments if they didn’t collect them by a certain time? What kind of system is at play?

It is impossible to take an administration seriously when the leader can wantonly create rules to fit his/her needs? Are these the lessons we want our children to learn? The basics like 1st Amendment rights to Free Speech and Freedom of Assembly are no-brainers, we expect our kids to learn about this in school, and if they experience it first hand, all the better. These lessons fall under an academic heading such as social studies or civics.

But how do you categorize the finer nuances of a learning environment that are equally important, such as fairness, truthfulness and integrity - qualities that as parents we expect our teachers and administrators to not only model for our kids through their own actions but to expect in every student that walks the halls of our schools? There is no purer laboratory than a classroom or school environment in which to teach these concepts. Yet, it seems that in both cases, the schools failed miserably and our students walked away with learning an entirely different lesson and not a lesson any reasonable person would be proud of.

Issues like Free Speech and Freedom of Assembly are protected by our Constitution and there are legal avenues when these rights appear to be violated. Classrooms have historically been venues where these issues are often raised. However, there is obviously no Constitutional right to expect fairness, truthfulness and integrity from our teachers and school leaders, only a moral compact and a code of ethics that parents have entrusted in them and an expectation that they will act responsibly, fairly and in the best interest of each and every student.

Saturday, November 3, 2007

A Short Reflection

I felt privileged to attend the installation of our new Rabbi last night. The service was joyful and warmth permeated throughout the entire congregation and guests. The benediction was given by our new rabbi's father-in-law who is a minister. Yes. A minister. Thank goodness for open-mindedness - The benediction is a Franciscan Benediction that every person should hear at least once and live by for a lifetime:

May God bless us with discomfort at easy answers, half-truths, and superficial relationships, so that we may live deep within our hearts.

May God bless us with anger at injustice, oppression, and exploitation of people, so that we may work for justice, freedom and peace.

May God bless us with tears to shed for those who suffer from pain, rejection, starvation and war, so that we may reach out our hands to comfort them and turn their pain into joy.

And may God bless us with enough foolishness to believe that we can make a difference in this world, so that we can do what others claim cannot be done.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Child's Accident and the California Fires

It is now known that a ten-year old boy accidentally started the Buckweed Fire in Los Angeles County last week, one of 15 fires that in total forced 640,000 people from their homes. The Buckweed fire charred more than 38,000 acres and destroyed 21 homes and dozens of other buildings in northern Los Angeles County. Five people were injured. The emotional impact of the losses, has surely also had a devastating impact on the Agua Dulce residents as well as those in the surrounding area.

The boy was living in a trailer home on The Carousel Ranch where one of his parents is a ranch caretaker and helps care for the horses. They have lived there for about a year. The Carousel Ranch is a non-profit organization, which is dedicated to, according to its website, “providing developmental therapeutic and recreational programs for disabled and disadvantaged children through horses”. This is a supportive environment to say the least; it is evident from the website. Ironically, and somewhat eerily, at the bottom of the website is a news feed, with the #3 story headlined as: SCV Fire Started By Boy Playing With Matches.

Here’s a description of Agua Dulce, where this boy lived and went to school.

Agua Dulce has the best of everything that California has to offer. Great climate, peacefulness, beauty, opportunity, low to no crime, great school, Air park, and, we're only 30 miles from "the city". … relax, kick your shoes off and loosen that tie; when you come to Agua Dulce you've come home.

If you go to the school district website, and browse the two elementary school pages it is evident that a lot of effort goes into creating a supportive and enriching environment with high academic and behavioral expectations. It sounds like an idyllic community. This boy probably attended one of these schools. He had friends and teachers. It seems like until that fateful day on October 21, he lived a pretty normal life. The director of the ranch has described the family as peaceful and those who know the boy say he has no history of behavioral problems. Even his fireplay was not terribly abnormal. According to Dr. Jeff Victoroff, associate professor of clinical neurology and psychiatry at the University of Southern California,

“At least one study suggests that if you take a population of boys between kindergarten and fourth grade, 60% of them have committeed unsupervised fireplay, which is to say that fireplay is a common and absolutely normal part of human development.”

The director of the ranch asked that the boy be removed. He is living with relatives somewhere in California. How do these parents begin to sort out all these issues? Even though he had no malicious intent, his actions had grave consequences. How do they help this child understand the devastation he caused to his neighbors’ and to strangers lives while protecting him from the psychological burden of living with his actions for the rest of his life? “He acknowledged that he was playing with matches, and accidentally, in his words, ‘set the fire’”.

How many times, as adults, have we done something really stupid and wished we could take back that one-second mistake? I remember so clearly wishing I could, while in the emergency room with my then 3 year old daughter who had fallen out of a shopping cart, onto a cement floor, flat on her back. I knew better than to allow her to stand up in that cart and if I could have only taken that second back -- but it was too late. Fortunately she was fine, but it could have changed all of our lives forever.

This boy could not take that second back either and his and his family’s life is changed forever. Although doubtful there will be criminal charges against the child, the parents may be facing civil suits for millions of dollars that they are clearly in no position to handle. Since they have lived in the area for only a year, you have to wonder if they have any close relationships with the people in this community… and it’s that very community that their son set fire to. As much as Agua Dulce is in need of support, and their devastation is not in the least bit minimized, this family also needs assistance.

Sorting this out is not an easy task. How the authorities and citizens of this community handle the upcoming weeks and months will require a lot of soul searching. The losses have already been great.