One of the things that makes disaster movies bearable is the notion that viewers go to the climate-controlled safety of a dark theater to witness horrors they believe will never actually occur. So while special effects make the volcanoes, avalanches, floods, earthquakes and towering infernos seem real, they are, in fact, not real at all.
Americans in areas walloped by this year's hurricanes got a taste of the real thing.
And thousands of individuals around the world experience their own tragedies on a small scale year around.
Now comes the reports -- worse with each day of fresh information -- of the loss of life and devastation from a tsunami in the Indian Ocean. Estimates are rapidly climbing past more than 120,000 dead and thousands more still missing.
In addition to the heartbreak and terror of such losses, there is the equally terrible specter of starvation, lack of drinking water and medical care for survivors and homelessness -- all of this plus the ongoing search for the missing.
International relief efforts are underway, but bottlenecks have already formed.
Some of the snafus are bureaucratic, but others are created by the scope of the disaster itself.
Roads for supply trucks to reach the hardest hit areas no longer exist.
Landing strips for airplanes have to be cleared or built. Railroad tracks have been twisted and washed away.
Among all of this chaos are such factors as warding off disease, burying the dead and bracing for still more tidal waves as forecasters predict the possibility of more earthquakes and aftershocks.
For those of us fortunate enough to have only a blast of Arctic air and a blizzard to contend with, the question is repeated over and over:
How can we help?
Listed below are several relief agencies who are working to get needed assistance to the tsunami-ravaged areas.
There are many other organizations providing help as well. Contact your church's national headquarters, for example.
And pray. Pray for the victims, their loved ones and all those who are in any way affected by this terrible disaster.
And pray for those providing assistance, because their task will require divine intervention to be successful.
Want to help?
The following are among the aid agencies accepting contributions for those affected by the earthquake and tsunamis in Asia. Contact the individual group for information on how to send donations.
American Jewish World Service
45 West 36th St.
New York, N.Y. 10018-7904
American Red Cross
International Response Fund
P.O. Box 37243
Washington, D.C. 20013
151 Ellis Street NE
Atlanta, Ga. 30303
Catholic Relief Services
P.O. Box 17090
Baltimore, Md. 21203-7090
Direct Relief International
27 South La Patera Lane
Santa Barbara, Calif. 93117
Doctors Without Borders
P.O. Box 2247
New York, N.Y. 10116-2247
International Orthodox Christian Charities
P.O. Box 630225
Baltimore, Md. 21263-0225
International Medical Corps
11500 West Olympic Blvd., Suite 506
Los Angeles, Calif. 90064
26 West St.
Boston, Mass. 02111-1206
P.O. Box 2669
Portland, Ore. 97208
8320 Melrose Ave., Suite 200
Los Angles, Calif. 90069
-- The Associated Press