If someone is involved directly in a disaster, he is very likely to rethink what actually matters in life. To a lesser extent, people who are not directly involved, such as those who hear about it, or those who are indirectly involved are also affected, but not nearly as much.
Going through a disaster in life can be very eye opening when it comes to what is really important in life. It shows you how quickly you could lose someone or something that means a great deal to you. It can also be one of the most beneficial events that can happen to a person.
I think this is true for everyone - you never realize how much your family and friends mean to you until you've come close to losing them all in a disaster. A disaster, either natural or man made, has a way of putting everything in perspective for you. All the toys and bells and whistles that you worked for and that defined you no longer mean a thing. All of a sudden you are thankful for the things that really matter: loved ones, friends, and family.
I believe disasters do help people realize what truly matters in life. I believe it is important for people to realize that they shouldn't be attached to things and I think sometimes disasters make a person start over again. I believe these times bring out a compassionate side in people.
There is nothing that builds perspective more than disasters or sad situations. When things go wrong and there is a chance that you will lose or that you have lost something or someone, it dawns on you how important it is and why you need these things in your life.