Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Look for the Helpers

On Sunday afternoon, when we got home from church and started checking email and Facebook, we learned, after the fact, that Mr. Spherical Model’s brother and family, in Oklahoma, had spent the afternoon in their tornado shelter—their first time actually having to use it. There were four adults, one child, and a hamster in a shelter that says it fits eight—but they said they were pretty squished.

The tornado passed nearby but missed them Sunday, so we went “phew” and thought the danger was past. And then Monday came. We heard enough news to recognize the family was safe, but elsewhere in Oklahoma things were much much worse.
We found ourselves glued to the Weather Channel after dinner. One of the news people broke down while talking about the lost children at an elementary school, some of them drowned under the rubble. That was heartbreaking. Another school, a few blocks away, had all the children huddled in inner hallways (if you can’t get in an underground shelter, an inner windowless room is the place to go), and despite the devastation, all the children survived. You do what you can to improve your odds of survival, but there’s not much a mere human can do against 200-mph winds and buildings being ripped apart.
Plaza Towers Elementary, the morning after
from news source
Tornadoes of any size are scary enough. But this one was more than a mile wide, stayed on the ground for 45 minutes (rather than the usual quick touchdown), and decimated a swath 17 miles long. Nature wins this round.
We had what seems like a lot of shocking, emotional, and devastating news lately, some local, some national: West, Texas, explosion; mass stabbing at our nearby community college; the Boston Marathon bombing; the Newport, Connecticut, school mass murder. One of the quotes that started appearing was from the unlikely source of Mr. Rogers:
When I was a boy I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me “Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.”—Fred Rogers
I found the image on Pinterest, linked to here
I knew those stories would come out. Some of what we’ve heard since Monday have been stories of heroic teachers, guarding and shielding children through the storm, and teachers hugging and carrying children out of the rubble. There was also the tireless efforts of first responders who worked through that first night. When I went to bed, the estimated death toll was 51, but by morning it had dropped to 24, including just 9 children. Some of the heartbroken were blessed with happy reunions. As homes and property were utterly lost, those who found their loved ones will feel blessed.
One happy woman, counting her blessings that she was alive, was telling newspeople her dog must be under the rubble, and then, on the air, she found her dog alive and got him out, and thanked God for granting both of her prayers—her own life, and her dog's.
One of the things we have learned by living along the Gulf Coast is that when disasters strike—and they strike all too frequently for our comfort—people reach out to help. They love to help. They consider it an opportunity and a privilege. I expect what we’ll see in the coming days is an outpouring of love and caring for the people of Oklahoma.
I’ve been noting a few resources where help can be offered:
Basketball star Kevin Durant, of the Oklahoma City Thunder, donated $1 Million to the Red Cross of Western and Central Oklahoma for his home town’s disaster relief. You can add to that donation here. The local station News 9, connecting with the Red Cross, suggests texting the word “food” to “32333” in order to make a $10 donation. (You can verify their site on Facebook: Oklahoma Tornadoes Recovery.)  If you’re local, you can drop off donations at the News 9 studios.
Mercury One, a Glenn Beck charity, set up a 2013 Midwest Tornado Relief, and already has supplies delivered to Moore. Beck says 100% of donations go directly to relief; any overhead costs get paid for from some other source. Donate here.
LDS Humanitarian Services is another place where 100% of donations will go directly to aid. They are already responding to needs in Oklahoma, and the Church will be providing volunteer labor as well (watch for the yellow Mormon Helping Hands T-shirts). (Note: your donation will go 100% to humanitarian aid, but will not be earmarked as to where, so Oklahoma’s needs will be met, and donations will also be spent around the world where there is need.] Donate here, indicating “LDS Charities (Humanitarian Services).”
Hugh Hewitt’s radio program has recommended and linked to Feed the Children Disaster Relief. Donate here.
May God pour out his blessings on those in need! And may we find the helpers to lift our spirits, and be the helpers where we can.

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