For all our differences, we are so similar

More than 1,300 miles separate the Tri-parishes and Haiti.



The Caribbean country is roughly 10,714 square miles, approximately the same size as Massachusetts.



But as we view news footage and images of the earthquake-stricken region, we quickly realize how much connects us.

Flash back to 2005, when very similar images were flashing across American news screens. It wasn’t an impoverished nation we were looking at. It was New Orleans.



It was the stretches of neighborhoods, business communities and churches left strewn in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. It was homes flooded by broken levees or damaged by Category 3-plus storm winds.



The faces were those of our friends, family and neighbors. People we’d never met, but whose agony was clearly shared, forever changed how we approach disasters. Their stories – our stories – pounded home the single message: This can happen to anyone.

As we waited for water, food, medical services and a safe place to lay our heads, the nation rallied to our aid. There would be plenty of criticism for the delayed response of some, and nothing but gratitude for the extreme hurdles others would endure to provide much-needed help.

With a 7.0-magnitude rumble, Haiti’s world has been upended. Just as others helped us in the wake of Katrina and Rita and 2008’s Gustav and Ike, it’s our opportunity to “pay it forward.” Lend assistance to our brothers and sisters who have been impacted by the tragedy.

The opportunities to give are numerous. [See today’s front page for a few local suggestions.] The American Red Cross, the National Football League – including New Orleans Saints middle lineback Jonathan Vilma, whose family resides in Haiti – and a number of other agencies have joined the effort to provide relief.

And while the eyes of the world may soon close on the devastation that has taken place, the need for help will continue to exist.

This brings to mind the national motto of Haiti, “L’Union Fait La Force,” which is French for “Union Makes Strength.”

Although divided by thousands of miles, a different language and vast expanses of sea, we must follow the pathway of unity to create what once again could be a peaceful nation.