People naturally look for sparks of hope and positivity in the midst of horror, and that is one reason why miracle stories pop up after a disaster. I can easily imagine myself using the word “miracle” when something unexpected and wonderful happens in the midst of tragedy. Even if I know there’s nothing magical or supernatural behind it, miracle is a fine word. It’s a perfectly good word until people bring religion into the picture, at which point the subject gets a bit ugly.
If an omnipotent, benevolent being saved one child but didn’t save yours, the miracle gets a little sobering and puzzling. If an all-powerful intelligence oversees an earthquake that causes untold misery, what’s going on here? To answer that, you might resort to the Christian fundamentalist “it’s a fallen world” response, but now we’re getting way down toward Pat Robertson’s level of crazy—which is so far down that no one really wants to be there. Or just as bad, there’s the “He works in mysterious ways” gambit, in which the workings of a deity create a world that operates exactly the same as a world without a deity.
Let miracles just be happy occurrences to lift spirits, especially the spirits of the victims in the middle of it, and those who are applying triage.