Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Help for Sydney and Bailey

Tuesday, May 5, 2015
12:46 pm

Bailey Meola (left) and Sydney Schumacher (right). Photo credit: Scott Meola

The death toll from the Nepal Earthquake is now over 7,500 people.

It's just too hard to grasp... one minute, everything is calm and tranquil, and then, just 20 seconds later, thousands of people are dead and countless locales have been turned to rubble. There are very few things that can cause that much damage that quickly. The only glimpse of the destruction I have seen is through photographs on the web/in print and in videos posted during the earthquake that show structures that have stood for hundreds of years crumbling before your very eyes. It is a weird feeling looking on YouTube and seeing all this stuff, only to go on Facebook and see everybody's posts about everything ranging from the Pacquiao/Mayweather fight to what's happening in Baltimore. It just reminds me of how different the world we are living in is from the world the people in Nepal and adjacent countries are living in. It almost feels like we are on two different planets.

But things hit home for many of my friends and family when we got the news that two Seattle girls, Sydney Schumacher and Bailey Meola, were missing from the quake. They graduated from Garfield High School in 2014 and were taking a gap year before they went off to college. In a world where we immerse ourselves in technology, often at the expense of interpersonal communication, the girls wanted to take time to learn about other cultures, explore the great outdoors, and make relationships that would last a lifetime.

I went to Garfield and was in my senior year when Bailey and Sydney were freshmen. I never knew Bailey, but I've known Sydney ever since I was in kindergarten or first grade, as she is the younger sister of one of my elementary/high school friends, Paul Schumacher. That means I've known her for around 15 years. Paul, Sydney, and I all went to McGilvra Elementary, as did Paul's older brother, Will. When past classmates of Sydney's and former McGilvra parents heard of the devastating news, they were absolutely shocked. We all just assumed that the earthquake affected people we had no relation to, so when we heard that two kind and sweet girls that many of us had grown up with had gone missing from the earthquake, we were horrified.

Kyangjin Gompa in the Langtang Valley under gorgeous blue skies

The girls were hiking the Langtang Valley Trek at the time of the earthquake. Langtang Valley is only a few hours' drive from Kathmandu, but is very rural and strikingly beautiful. You can practically reach out and touch the majestic Himalayan Mountains as you stop at various tea huts and Buddhist monasteries on your trek. Paul took a similar trek two years ago, and he, Will, and Jay (his father) landed in Kathmandu on Friday and are now working with a private expedition team to try and find the two girls. The girls are thought to be somewhere near Kyangjin Gompa, a Buddhist monastery in the Langtang Valley. However, there is a possibility they hiked all the way to Langtang village, which is several hours away. Langtang Village was devastated by the earthquake and buried under a massive landslide, while Kyangjin Gompa escaped relatively unscathed. For now, all we can do is hope that they did not make the trek to Langtang Village.

Although the wait is horrible, and I can't even imagine the emotions the families of Sydney and Bailey are going through, it is truly amazing to see the outpouring of support for these two girls. A fundraising site here has already raised over 43,000 dollars for these two girls to go towards expenses for search efforts, with any extra money being donated to an organization providing earthquake relief in the region (ex: World Vision). Trees throughout Madison Park are wrapped in yellow ribbons, and there is a candlelight vigil at Madison Park Beach this Friday at 8:30 pm. The amount of yellow ribbons is overwhelming, and I believe that it is a reflection of their character. If you want to go to the vigil, let me know, and I'd be happy to provide some sort of transportation.

We have to be realistic and know that with each passing day, the possibility of finding these girls alive decreases. It hurts me dearly to type that. I just hope that no matter what, we can realize how much this has brought us together. As I said before, I don't have the privilege of knowing Bailey, but I can say without a shred of doubt that there would not be nearly as many yellow ribbons in Madison Park if Sydney wasn't the beautiful person she was.

Once again, the fundraising site is:

- Charlie

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