Solution to disaster must begin with us

Thursday, March 16, 2006

I couldn't help but feel pride this morning when I read about the aftermath of the deadly tornadoes that struck central Missouri. The small town of Renick - population a shade over 200 - was ground zero. Four lives were lost in the small town and virtually every structure in the community suffered some degree of damage. But unlike New Orleans, the residents of Renick took matters in their own hands.

Granted, the comparison between a small Missouri town and the urban New Orleans is not exactly accurate. But the spirit and character of the residents does beg some comparisons.

The Missouri town didn't wait for the state and federal government to come to their rescue. Instead, the mayor and other volunteers started their day following the tornado by loading portable toilets onto trailers. Then they visited the handful of retail businesses to gather donations. Then they joined with volunteers from neighboring communities to go door-to-door and see what needed to be done. Then they hauled away debris and began burning fallen trees. And by the way, school attendance the day following the tornadoes was nearly 100 percent.

The politicians from Missouri have asked the federal government for disaster relief. But the residents of those small towns hit by the tornadoes weren't about to wait for someone else to lend a helping hand.

The story of the Missouri effort reminds me of an e-mail making the rounds concerning a blizzard that struck North Dakota earlier this year. The blizzard dumped 44 inches of snow with winds recorded at 90 mph. There was no power, hundreds of motorists were stranded, every single road was closed and communities were isolated for days.

Here's how the North Dakota residents handled the historic blizzard.

George Bush did not come.

FEMA did nothing.

No one howled for the government.

No one blamed the government.

No one even uttered an expletive on TV.

Jesse Jackson or Al Sharpton did not visit.

No one blamed Bush for the disaster.

Nobody demanded $2,000 debit cards.

No one asked for a FEMA trailer house.

No one looted.

Nope, we just melted the snow for water and sent out caravans of SUVs to pluck people out of snow-engulfed cars.

Local restaurants made food and the police and fire departments delivered it to the snow-bound families.

We fired up wood stoves and put on extra layers of clothes.

We did not wait for some affirmative action government to get us out of a mess created by being immobilized by a welfare program that takes votes for "sittin' at home" checks.

I'm certain there are those who will argue that the stories of Missouri and North Dakota have no comparison with the disaster in New Orleans. And they would be right in many ways. Yet the way people handle the unexpected aspects of life do make a valid comparison. There are those who look to the government to solve their problems. And there are those who look to themselves and their neighbors to solve the problem.

It doesn't take a genius to read between the lines in this story.

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