Sunday, April 28, 2013

Bangladesh Building Collapse

When I was 17 my least favorite morning of the week was Saturday.  With an ever-changing extracurricular activity schedule, Saturday morning was my one set shift at the local dry cleaners, which dragged me out of bed before 8am, and at that age indicated torture. The shift lasted four hours and always included a bagel brought by a sympathetic friend and a pile of gossip magazines supplied by my boss to entertain me while in-between helping customers at the counter. I should also mention that I received $40 for those “hard” worked Saturdays, totaling $120.00 a month pre-taxes.

On Wednesday, any avid news watcher would be able to tell you that a factory building collapsed in Dhaka, Bangladesh which housed 3,122 employees who produced garments  that are out sourced for the western world. And by this morning, any avid news watcher could tell you that the death toll count of these factory workers is up to 364, with 2,200 rescued (many at the cost of their limbs), and an estimated 550 people missing under the debris. With today marking Sunday, the 5th day since the catastrophe, it is well past the estimated 72 hours a human being can survive without food and water. I mentioned those who would know these facts would have to be an avid news watcher because it has been my observation that these stories, even in Dhaka, run second and third to what is happening in the first or Western World. On Thursday I could tell you more about how much the Boston Marathon bombers mother shoplifted from a Natick, MA mall then how many factory workers were still missing from watching the news. 

I was reminded of my job at the local dry cleaners and my $120.00 a month I then received, as I watched a 17 year old girl interviewed today after her hand was cut off from the slab of cement it was mangled under to rescue her from debris. The station called her lucky and I went numb thinking how at age 17 I would have defined lucky. It would have incorporated more than a minimum wage of $38.00 a month, it would have indicated that if a building was deemed unsafe on a Tuesday, I would not have been forced to return on a Wednesday, and without question it would have included 2 hands.

Being American I know that I am just as much part of the problem as the solution. As I walked the hospital corridors down to the ward filled with women rescued from the collapse today, I realized any of the items I was clothed in may have come from a similar unsafe factory in Asia, as Bangladesh reports they release 23% of their garment productions to America annually. I realized while I was being brought down to comfort them, I just as much owed them an apology for being part of a world that allows this kind of treatment and I caught my breathe when my guide was asked to bring us to the unit at another time  as the Prime Minister of Bangladesh was currently inside visiting.

As we turned to leave someone asked me, “If you want I can take you outside to see the piles of bodies that weren’t pronounced dead until they got to the hospital”, and while I politely declined, I turned in time to see a lifeless woman my age being wheeled by to join the others. I said a prayer, not knowing if it was to the god she believed in or the one I had been raised to believe in, but pictured both fundamentally  saying “We hate this too, were working on it, and so can you”.