Editorial: In wake of tornado, time to thank those who helped, think of how we can help ourselves

photo by: Journal-World Photo Illustration

Lawrence Journal-World Editorial

There are a multitude of reasons to be thankful and thoughtful following the tornado that came through Douglas County on Tuesday evening.

We should be thankful for the first responders who arrived on disaster scenes quickly to provide much needed services and support. The Douglas County Sheriff’s Office, the Lawrence Police Department, Lawrence-Douglas County Fire Medical, the American Red Cross, a host of township fire departments, utility crews and others were in action in good time and with strong numbers.

Residents also should be thankful for how the storm developed. It formed in such a way that there was time to provide adequate notice for those in its path. That was a lucky break, but good planning on the part of Douglas County Emergency Management put us in a position to take advantage of that good luck. The Douglas County Emergency Management team takes its role very seriously, and we should be thankful that we have professionals who are devoted to planning for and reacting to our worst days.

To many, it is particularly evident that we should be thankful for friends and neighbors. There were stories of neighbors — often times facing their own damage — making sure to first check on those around them before they started sifting through their own damaged lives. Many residents who had their homes hit by the tornado soon found church groups, members of their kids’ sports teams, and other friends and family showing up at their doorsteps — or what was left of them. Whether it was to haul or to hug, they were there to help.

People who have an understanding of our community are known to say, “in a lot of ways, Lawrence is still a small town.” On this day, that is a high compliment. There is still a strong spirit for neighbor to help neighbor.

The aftermath of this tornado, though, shouldn’t be allowed to pass without a certain amount of thoughtfulness. Now is an excellent time to think about how prepared you were for a tornado to bear down upon your home. Did you know where you would go in your home? If you were driving, did you have a plan for how to respond? Do you have simple but important items like a battery-operated radio and a reliable flashlight in an emergency kit? Did you get to your storm shelter and realize that somehow it had become a storage facility rather than a place with adequate space to take cover?

The federal website ready.gov/build-a-kit is a good resource for people looking to build their own emergency preparedness kit. It lists lots of items you may never think of, ranging from a whistle to help first responders find you to a pair of pliers to turn off utilities in an emergency situation.

But just as important as building an actual kit is building the right mindset about the twists and turns that are part of life. It was striking to hear how so many victims of this storm quickly set aside the loss of personal property and homes. As one said, that was simply stuff.

A tornado is a good reminder that stuff is not the essence of life.

In the days and weeks ahead — as the challenges of cleaning up and rebuilding mount — there probably will be much frustration and sorrow on the part of victims who have lost their homes and possessions. We should do all we can to help them.

But let’s also help ourselves. Plan, prepare and, importantly, prioritize. We all may find that what was important at the beginning of a storm is less so in the end.


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