It's sad that it takes a tragedy to bring out the best in people. As of 10am this morning - less than 2 days after setting up their Victorian bushfire appeal - the Red Cross had collected over $15 million in donations. If you haven't yet donated, go here.
Hundreds of people have lined up at blood collection centres to donate much needed blood and plasma. Our local relief centre at Hurstbridge had a huge sign "Thanks but we can't accept any donations". Al the relief centres are being overwhelmed by people wanting to give clothes, toys and household goods. Everyone wants to help, wants to give. I spoke to a friend in the SES who confirmed the State Emergency Service was sending crews to affected areas. "I put up my hand but there were 50 people and only 3 trucks." All these people are volunteers, most with full-time jobs or their own businesses.
The news is not looking good for Raches on Ravellry. The death toll is up to 173 (including 22 in St Andrews just 7km from my home). Last night she put up a post asking for our thoughts and prayers; her husband hasn't been seen for more than 60 hours, the police found his car but nothing can be confirmed yet. Today she took down her blog and Facebook profile. But it could take days or weeks for things to be confirmed - many victims will only be able to be identified by their teeth and jewellery - and comparing dental records takes time. Just last week J had an appointment with our new dentist who's fascinated by forensic dental work and was uncanny in her summation of his dental history. Today she could very well be putting these skills to use for more important things than just impressing new patients.
The Australian knitters have already started knitting squares for a friendship blanket for Raches. It looks like we'll have plenty of squares to make blankets for other victims. Yes we know that wool blankets can be bought far more cheaply than the yarn we are knitting but a handknitted blanket says we care. It also satisfies our need to do something, anything to help.
We're also putting together knitting survival kits for those knitters who have lost everything - a pair of needles, some yarn and a pattern. We don't know where to send them or how to distribute them but once the immediate chaos is over we know they will be appreciated.
I can only hope that all this goodwill, all this wanting to give, is still in place in a month or six months of a year's time when the bushfire victims will still need our blood and love and money to rebuild their shattered lives.