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May 8, 2014

Why Natural Disasters Are Good for Us. ~ Shea Allen

Photo: Terry Holden, Rogersville, AL Police Chief

It’s hard to watch severe weather from behind the keyboard when you are used to being out in the thick of it.

Watching first hand how an ominous sky morphs into a nightmare is a indescribable feeling.

According to an NPR article published Monday evening, this latest onslaught of damaging tornadoes across the southeast has already killed 15 people in Arkansas and Oklahoma.

News outlets in the Tennessee Valley have reported three more dead after another supercell moved through the Athens-Limestone County area.

Disasters, like everything else that rocks us to our core, have a silver lining.

Undoubtedly tomorrow, stories will begin to surface of communities coming together, brother helping brother and families clinging to one another to conquer grief. No other time do we see the kindness of strangers so poignantly displayed than after huge loss.

Just over a year ago, I covered the annihilation of a predominantly Mexican trailer park in the town of Kilpatrick, AL. The area of about 100 homes is known locally as “Little Mexico.” When the storm system passed through it lay waste to the majority of these very modest homes. All that remained were the families left with nothing.

Photo courtesy of @jayward11

Looking around at the damage it was hard to imagine this mostly immigrant community rebounding after losing it all in an instant.

But then the human will surfaced from the rubble.

It wasn’t just the Hispanic families helping each other, but others from the town that had previously been divided by the passing of Alabama’s controversial immigration bill—the toughest piece of anti-immigration legislature to date.

Within an hour of the storm’s passing, students from the nearby high school had formed a group to assist with the recovery. Church groups, elected leaders, store owners—all white—journeyed down dirt roads they’d never dared to visit before.

In just a few hours, chaos was transformed into a sort of order. Belongings were sorted. Snapped drywall and splintered framing piled neatly and smoldering. Tarps covered roofs and women pulled wagons with boxed meals and teddy bears.

As I stood and watched this miracle of empathy from the sidelines it wasn’t so hard anymore to believe that good lives in all people.

Selfless love had bridged the gap of cultural differences.

Disaster had bonded people despite language barriers. It resonated so strongly that the story was picked up by numerous national news outlets.

The point is that without tragedies like the one we are witnessing tonight, we might forget that kind of selflessness exists anymore.

In the rat race of a society my generation has come to know, it’s sometimes hard to remember that people do good for its own sake still. Despite differing opinions, divides over politics and religion, socioeconomic status or the color of our skin, Humanity relies on its community to survive.

My prayers are with the victims and their families tonight.

And for those like me still waiting for the storms to pass, stay safe and stay aware.

Update: (Tuesday 4/29/14 9:55AM) The Associated Press and The Weather Channel are reporting 28 fatalities across the south including six in Alabama. More storms forecasted for this afternoon.

 

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Apprentice Editor: Kim Haas / Editor: Rachel Nussbaum

Photos: Terry Holden, Rogersville, AL Police Chief / @jayward11

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Shea Allen