This past week, yes in fact one week ago today, we recall the events that led up to, during, and after the tornado touched ground in the state of Massachusetts. It has been a truly emotional week, recalling near misses and reaching out to those who were not so lucky.
Like all storms that have been devastating more frequently around the world, the first response is confusion. What do we do and who is in charge. We must go by the "rules" of engagement as if this were a military operation otherwise, we'd be like chickens, running around with our heads cut off. So, organization is a good place to start. Sometimes, it gets in the way of helping and other times, it prevents further devastation from happening. People rushed in with their chain saws attempting to relieve trees from houses, only to have them in their inexperience fall on them. We hear that it has been suspended, and now under proper advisement. Another poor man, working on his roof, unable to afford hiring someone to clean up, fell off of it leaving his family to worry about "him" in addition. Officials quickly marked some homes as condemned, just like we saw on television, homes were color coded with spray paint.
Our church collected non-perishable food items which has now been forwarded to a warehouse locally. Some tornado victims came to the hall to pick up a few grocery items, rakes and gloves. During the week, we had our usual "Community meal," in which we offer to those who wish, a free meal. Thursday we expected more people to come, especially the victims of the tornado. Since they didn't know about it, sadly, none of them came. Years ago, we had radio communication in this town, where the announcer would have broadcast the message that would have reached out to those in need. Ours like so many other stations, have taped music and is not a viable community source. We need to work on reaching the people with greater efficiency. Yes, the red cross came out, and we thank them. IOCC responded and we thank them as well as many other organizations. If you ask who was in charge....few knew. Television postings are not always up-to-date and sometimes the information is wrong. Certainly it does not help those who have lost their homes and have no means of watching. We lost power, some have just recently been restored. Battery operated radios worked.....Cell phones do not always work...so why don't we stick to what does? Communication in this area remains to be a major problem. Roads were closed and people travelling did not know it, many of them heading into the first and second tornado, on their way home from work. Had they been listening to their radio, (if a local station were broadcasting,) they would have not been, as my husband said "stuck" not knowing where to go. It was by radio that I heard the city of Springfield had been hit and Brimfield and Sturbridge as well, on a battery operated radio in the cellar. I was caring for two small children, and I didn't have any notice of an impending storm, until one of my friends called with news of bad weather ahead. Years ago, our town had a warning horn that would alert residents to danger. What happened to that system? We are sitting ducks in this town needing improved ways to reach its people, before and after catastrophic events.
So while the power struggle goes on, who gets to the people? The answer is people do. Our residents were taken in by (neighbor's family and friends). The capacity to love one another still exists here in our community. Tornado Aide was established by compassionate people, through the Internet. Postings of what is needed and where, have answered the call. It is still going on....
Sunday afternoon, I met some of the victims as they came to St. Michael Church for help. I recognized Betty Ann. I hadn't seen her for years. We spent some time talking, and she reached out for the hug that no organization can give. People caring about people.
I have come to realize that the greatest power you can have is on your knees. Established organizations claim their authority in responding to community need, and as good as it is , it does not go far enough. During an emergency other towns and cities may be the protocol to help, but not in a timely manner. You still must rely on those close by to get you to a hospital or out of harms way, in many cases.
People helping people, is where basic immediate needs are met, the old-fashioned personal way. Genuine love for one's neighbor, in a hurting community now devastated by an unexpected tornado, is the response in Massachusetts, which has been enormous by all account. The love and outpouring is immeasurable.
On Saturday, we will have a liturgy at our church for the dead. Those who died will be remembered by many who did not personally know them, except to say, they were our loved ones in our community, our brothers, and sisters, our family.
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