Of tornadoes & hurricanes & the uniquely qualified

Just last weekend, many of us recognized Easter and Passover, and meditated on the blessings of cleansing, renewal, and rebirth or freedom from the past, both literal and metaphoric. Some of us considered the practical application in our modern lives, and the idea that sometimes we make deliberate choices to separate from what has gone before, and sometimes those choices are foisted upon us.

In the days that followed those holiest of remembrances, tornadoes unexpectedly ravished the Southeast — leveling towns and neighborhoods and taking over three hundred lives. I was riveted to the television and computer, much as I had been thirty-one months ago as the sun came up on what had been my home in Galveston, Texas, the morning after Hurricane Ike roared ashore.

Bolivar Peninsula after Hurricane Ike - Sept. 2008

Tuscaloosa after the tornado - April 2011

Those of us who found our lives upended by that 100-year storm struggled to understand why the eyes of the world were seemingly blind to our plight. It felt like no one cared, no one came (except the carpetbaggers), and certainly no one understood. If we weren’t suffering from collective post traumatic stress, it was something close. Everyone of us said the same thing: “Why me? Why us?”

And the answer came back over and over again: There can be only one reason to survive tragedy — to learn. To learn something, somehow, through the pain — through the effort not only to survive, but to recover and then thrive — to learn something that we can offer the next wounded person. It’s our responsibility, I had to believe, to remember how it felt and what we needed so that when it happened to someone else, and it certainly would, we would know how to help. We would be uniquely qualified to step in and ease someone’s pain. We have to, we must, pay it forward.

Tuscaloosa and any number of small towns and communities across Alabama, Mississippi, and Georgia need our efforts and energy and our particular insights into the soul of a disaster. We didn’t have social media in 2008 to the degree we have it today. We can reach out, touch, organize, share resources with an extraordinarily large extended community. If you aren’t on Facebook yet, this is the time. You don’t have to be able to write a check or do heavy lifting to help. But you do have to show up.

I invite you to post what you are doing or opportunities that you hear about in the Comment section below so that others might learn new ways to send aid and solace.

Then share this essay with your email contacts and through your social media networks (there are Share this buttons at the bottom of this post). A thousand or more people typically read this blog. We could double or triple that if you share the link. If everyone makes even a small effort, we can change lives.

And won’t that make what we went through a little more bearable?

So tell me — What are you doing, Galveston?


Selected essays about recovering from Hurricane Ike:

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  1. #1 by Alex on May 2, 2011 - 9:41 am

    Sad amazing photographs. So many recent natural disasters– New Orleans, Galveston, California fires, Texas Fires and now this — makes me wonder if Mother Nature is angry with us. Maybe we need to be more gentle with her?

  2. #2 by Catherine on July 6, 2012 - 11:51 am

    I really enjoyed seeing this link on facebook. I am student(alumni as of a couple days ago) at the University of Alabama-born and raised in Houston, and was in Tuscaloosa when the tornado hit. The tornado tore threw my neighborhood but luckily I was at the library basement when it hit. As of last night the Mayor of Tuscaloosa said that there were 434 people still missing. The university cancelled finals and strongly encouraged everyone to go home. So I’m back in Houston now and trying to plan something to raise money for all these people that have lost everything. I know specific families that have been severely effected by this storm and have lost their homes. We plan on “adopting” a family to provide immediate aid for. For those of you who want to help and don’t know how, the University has provided a link with many suggestions on how to help. Anything helps!

  3. #3 by Diane on July 6, 2012 - 11:52 am

    I have shared. I look forward to seeing suggestions from those who have been there on what could be done to assist. In the mean time, I’ll be checking in with ARPH (Aussie Rescue and Placement Helpline) to see if there are any Australian Shepherds &/or their owners who need a safe place to foster until some stability has returned to their lives.

  4. #4 by Catherine on July 6, 2012 - 11:52 am

    I have asked our House Mom to send me a list of families of our staff who have lost everything. Most of our staff lived in Alberta City, which is completely gone now. So I’m sure she will have plenty of names for me. I’ll let you know as soon as I get it! I live in Clear Lake and saw all the damage Ike did. It’s good to see some locals helping out in my second home of Tuscaloosa!

  5. #5 by Alice Melott on July 6, 2012 - 11:53 am

    Pictures & documents found in the rubbish are being posted here: https://www.facebook.com/#!/PicturesandDocumentsfoundafterAprilTornadoes

  6. #6 by Alice Melott on July 6, 2012 - 11:53 am

    Thanks, Diane! For JEFFERSON COUNTY, ALA animals lost or found, the hotline is 205-397-8534. Tornado pets lost & found: http://www.facebook.com/#!/ALTornadoAnimals

  7. #7 by Alice Melott on July 6, 2012 - 11:53 am

    In Atlanta, Salvation Army donations can be dropped of on Monday & Tuesday May 2-3, 2011 at –

    Keller Williams Realty
    Two Ravinia Drive
    Suite 110
    Atlanta, GA 30346

    A truck will deliver the donations to the Salvation Army in Birmingham on Wednesday, May 4th.

  8. #8 by Alice Melott on July 6, 2012 - 11:53 am

    The Salvation Army Building in Tuscaloosa was completely destroyed. As a result, a void has been left in the relief efforts for the residents of Tuscaloosa and the Salvation Army has indicated that the following items are needed immediately —

    Bedding-blankets, sheets, pillows & etc. (NEW)
    Canned Goods – nonperishable foods
    Depends (elderly)
    Towels & wash clothes (NEW)

    Monetary Donations may be sent to –

    The Salvation Army
    2100 11th Avenue North
    Birmingham, AL 35234

  9. #9 by Alice Melott on July 6, 2012 - 11:54 am

    I received an email from Indiana from a group offering to adopt a family to help provide them with whatever they need. If anyone knows a family who could use that kind of help, please email me at alicemelott@gmail.com

  10. #10 by Alice Melott on July 6, 2012 - 11:54 am

    Galveston Bible Church is sending a team to work with EFCA Crisis Response. EFCA maintained a 2 yr presence here after Ike.

  11. #11 by Alice Melott on July 6, 2012 - 11:54 am

    Thank you, Catherine. If you learn of other families in need of adoption, please let us know. I’m sure there are many other individuals and groups who would be willing to step up if they know it’s needed. One of the things after Ike that was most frustrating was that individual needs, like power bills and mortgage payments and medications, were overlooked or took too long through the bureaucratic channels to be useful. “Adoption” is an awesome solution!

  12. #12 by Alice Melott on July 6, 2012 - 11:54 am

    I’m in Atlanta now, but with technology, distance hardly matters anymore…

  13. #13 by Leana on July 6, 2012 - 11:55 am

    We have family living within 20 miles of Toscolusa, Alabama. They are involved in helping out in the relief effort. If there is a family we can assist, we have a local contact that can be our boots on the ground.
    Leona Kline
    OP KWMetro

  14. #14 by Alice Melott on July 6, 2012 - 11:55 am

    Thank you, Leona! Please send me an email to alicemelott@gmail.com. I will keep you posted on our needs and progress.

  15. #15 by Alice Melott on July 6, 2012 - 11:55 am

    HOUSTON–Drop donations for Tuscaloosa tornado victims here: Houston-Champions Fire Department ESD29 12730 Champion Forest Dr. 281-444-2014 X 110 or press 0 after menu options. http://www.esd29.org Donations will be accepted thru Thursday, May 5th 8:00am – 6:00pm. Truck will leave for Alabama on Friday morning May 6th. For more info, contact: Joseph Lee 832-335-9282 JLee@championsfire.org

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