Friday, May 14, 2010

It's Not 6000 Lost Americans... It's 6000 Lost Americans Every Year

Around 6000 Americans die annually from ALS. Every Advocacy Day we remember them... or do we really? We are good at remembering the here-and-now -- the 30,000ish people living with ALS and those 6,000ish who died during the past year. We're terrible about getting our here-and-now brains around the cumulative effect of this disease.

One idea that has been bounced around for years has been to have 6000 empty chairs present at the ALSA candlelight vigil in Washington to remember those who have died in the last year. The following year there would be 12,000 chairs and the year after that, 18,000. At some point the chair display would get so big that the people who live and work in Washington would have to pay attention. If we had started doing this when I first went to advocacy day seven years ago, we would be up to 42,000 chairs. 42,000 people who were somebody's mother or father, somebody's brother or sister. 42,000 empty chairs clogging up our nation's capital. 42,000 lost lives. Can you imagine our national resolve if that many lives were lost to terrorism or airplane accidents or tainted spinach?

If not the empty chairs, perhaps a balloon release. That would get some attention, too. Lou Gehrig died in 1941. 69 years * 6000 Americans ... almost half a million balloons.

It's not just an American problem. If we started finding ways to represent the global loss of life to ALS since Lou Gehrig died, we would be renting over 8,000,000 chairs or releasing enough balloons that the FAA would probably stop us.

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