Category Archives: Disasters/Disaster Relief

The Heart of the Heartland

Jim Routon gives his  young neighbor Hezekiah Darbon a bear hug after the child was pulled from the wreckage of his school in Moore, OK.

Jim Routon gives his young neighbor Hezekiah Darbon a bear hug after the child was pulled from the wreckage of his school in Moore, OK.

When an EF-5 tornado tore through Moore, Oklahoma last week, it left 24 people dead, including 7 children who perished when their school took a direct hit from the monster storm.  Once the danger passed and the stories of miraculous survival emerged, we once again—as we usually do when things like this happen—saw something that couldn’t be crushed:  the American Spirit.

Within minutes of the storm’s passing, people rushed to help their neighbors.  Parents and other concerned citizens quickly mobilized around both Briarwood Elementary and Plaza Towers Elementary Schools.  Many volunteers formed a human chain to pass children from the wreckage of their schools into the waiting arms of their parents.  For Briarwood first grader Hezekiah Darbon, it wasn’t his parents’ familiar faces he saw when he first came out, but it was his neighbor, Jim Routon.  Their emotional reunion was caught on tape by KFOR-TV and their picture (above) spread rapidly across the internet.  Routon considers 6-year-old Hezekiah to be his “part-time kid”, and the two of them have been neighbors for four years.  Hezekiah’s relationship with Routon is so special that he gave himself the nickname “Little Dog” and calls Routon “Big Dog”.  Routon said, “Just to come on and to not expect anything good to come from what I saw and then to see my ‘Little Dog’ here run up…we’re very blessed.  We feel very, very blessed.”

During tough times, Americans never seem to fail to respond to their neighbors in need, even though they themselves may have lost so much.  Also, as always seems to happen with every hurricane, tornado or other catastrophes, donations from strangers across the country have been pouring into the Red Cross and other humanitarian organizations since the storm hit.

Many Oklahomans, like Governor Mary Fallin, rely on their faith when tragedy strikes.  Governor Fallin said, “I have a pretty strong faith, and I trust that God will make all things work together … I have to show courage and strength during this time, because people are depending upon me.”

Some of the residents of Moore are battle-tested when it comes to tornadoes.  The town saw two previous storms that were just as violent as the one last Monday come through in 1999 and 2003…both of which followed nearly identical paths as last week.  Governor Fallin credits the resiliency of Oklahomans for their ability to bounce back after taking such a massive blow from Mother Nature.  When asked why they don’t just pack up and move to a place less prone to these massive storms, she replied, “Because this is their home.”

The pride and love of the land that those residents in Oklahoma seem to have for their state is older than America itself.  It’s that kind of people that built this nation:   resilient, hard-working, faithful…and willing to help each other in hardship.  God bless them as they rebuild their town and their lives.

Since today is Memorial Day, please take the time to remember the brave men and women from our founding until today who gave the ultimate sacrifice in their service to the United States.

“It is not in the still calm of life, or the repose of a pacific station, that great characters are formed…the habits of a vigorous mind are formed contending with difficulties…Great necessities call out great virtues.”- Abigail Adams, former First Lady of the United States

A Haven for Heroes

On another Tuesday morning eleven years ago today, the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center cast their final shadows over the neighboring buildings in lower Manhattan.  Before noon that day, the shadows would be gone, and so were the towers.  The world– and the New York City skyline– had changed forever.

One small, unassuming building that miraculously escaped the effects of the collapse of the towers and the resulting hurricane of debris and humanity was St. Paul’s Chapel.  As the oldest continuous-use public building in New York City, it survived the burning of New York in September 1776 when the British re-took the city from the Continental army.  Back then, St. Paul’s was saved by a bucket brigade.  Flash forward to 2001, and it was saved by a 100-year-old sycamore tree that bore the brunt of the towers’ collapse, shielding the small building as if Divine Providence were saving it for a special purpose.

Within days of the terrorist attacks in 2001, St. Paul’s became a place of refuge for the rescuers.  Due to its close proximity to Ground Zero, rescue and recovery workers would make their way to the chapel where they found a hot meal, massage therapists to soothe their aching muscles, and people to pray with them and for them to soothe their aching souls.  Some would just come to rest or sleep in the pews after long hours of working in “the pit” that was Ground Zero.  One police officer called St. Paul’s an “oasis of heaven in the midst of hell.”

Exhibit inside St. Paul’s Chapel memorializes those who died.

Volunteers from all faiths and walks of life came from around the country to help the helpers.  This ministry to the workers at Ground Zero continued for several months until the recovery work officially ended in May 2002.

This wasn’t the first time in its history that St. Paul’s filled an important role as a place for reflection and worship for citizens and leaders following a traumatic time.  Another American hero made his way to the doors of the chapel on a day long before 9-11.  Before attending a service of thanksgiving at St. Paul’s in April 1789, President George Washington was inaugurated just a short walk away from the chapel in Federal Hall (on Wall Street).  At that time, the nation’s capital was New York City.  Having just come through the war for our independence, the young nation and its citizens were in need of direction and an uplifting sentiment from their new leader (much like the days following the attacks).  In his inaugural address, Washington stated:

“No People can be bound to acknowledge and adore the invisible hand, which conducts the Affairs of men more than the People of the United States. Every step, by which they have advanced to the character of an independent nation, seems to have been distinguished by some token of providential agency.”

George Washington sat here: this is where our first president prayed and worshiped at St. Paul’s during his time in New York.

The same could be said of the little chapel that survived the fall of the Twin Towers.  Today, St. Paul’s Chapel remains, as always, a place of worship, but also serves as sort of a mini-museum to where the events of September 11, 2001 can be remembered and reflected upon by all who visit there.  Several exhibits memorialize those who perished, and pay tribute to the brave police officers, firemen and other first-responders who put themselves in harm’s way in order to save others.

Another St. Paul’s exhibit: police and fire departments from all over the world sent their badges and other items in support of the workers at Ground Zero.

Divine Intervention

Andrea Silva and Jamey Howell hold tightly to their jeep overtaken in floodwaters. Read post below for the story behind this amazing picture.

Whenever disaster strikes, stories of inspiration, bravery or miraculous circumstances begin to surface in the days and weeks afterward.  Such is the case in the story behind the picture above.  Photographer Rick Murray of Hendersonville, TN took the photo on Sunday, May 2, 2010 during the widespread flooding that swept the greater Nashville area over the course of that weekend.  After he snapped it, he prayed. “Please Lord, don’t let me have taken the last picture of those kids alive.”

The two teenagers in peril that morning were Jamey Howell and Andrea Silva, who were on their way to church in Jamey’s jeep.  When they found their regular route was not passable, they went another way to get to their destination.  Emergency personnel cleared them to take another road.  However, this proved to be treacherous as well.  While crossing a bridge, their vehicle was overtaken by flash flood waters.  In an instant, they had to decide what to do, so they decided to call 9-1-1.  They were told it would be at least 20 minutes before anyone could come to their aid.

As the water rose quickly, they climbed on top of the jeep and held on for dear life…for a full 90 minutes.  It was during this time, that Murray took the now-famous snapshot.  He then witnessed as the two were swept away into the floodwaters.  As he told his story to local media, he remembered, ““My head is spinning. I wish I hadn’t seen that.”

But, what he didn’t know at the time is that the two young people had decided they needed to let go…and see what God would do.  After clinging for so long to the jeep, He gave them the strength to swim through the muddy, fast-moving waters to safety, where emergency personnel were able to get to them and pull them out.  Andrea was treated for minor injuries at a local hospital and was released.  She later said, “I think the whole time God was with us…there’s just no other explanation but God.”

Andrea and Jamey may not have made it to church that Sunday morning, but they definitely felt His powerful presence as He met them in the water.

Hope Floats…Then Crumbles

***NOTE:  As of Monday morning, 5/10/10 at 7:30 Central time, we did have a visit to Nashville from the head of Homeland Security, and a couple more White House officials are supposed to be coming to town to check out the flood damage this week.  However, still no public words from the president expressing condolences to those who lost so much, so this post is still relevant.***

At the end of my last post (see “Heroes and Fools), I linked to a video that by now has become famous. The video shows what I later learned, was a portable classroom floating down Interstate 24 in Nashville on May 1st when the Great Flood of 2010 began to sweep across the area. What I didn’t notice until I looked again, after it was pointed out on, was the long banner on the side of the floating schoolroom which reads, “HOPE”. As we all know, that was the first half of President Obama’s election mantra.  If you’ve seen the video, you know what happened to the schoolhouse and to the HOPE banner—they folded like a deck of cards.

I think that image is pretty symbolic for the President, especially as it relates to his seeming lack of interest in the suffering that many people in Tennessee—as well as Mississippi and Kentucky— are going through at this time.  Even as the water is receding, the body count is rising.

It’s now been nearly one week and he has yet to make any public comment on the situation to encourage the people here.  Many of them, especially in Nashville and Memphis, voted for him.  These two cities, after all, are blue towns in red states…purple districts.  Can’t he at least throw them a bone?  Beyond the usual declaration of a disaster area statement from White House officials, neither he nor any of his representatives have stopped by or said two words about this catastrophe.

What a change from the campaign days of 2008, when Candidate Obama came to Nashville for one of the debates against John McCain at Belmont University.  He arrived to a whirlwind of fawning admirers, Obama stickers on thousands of cars, and chants of “Yes We Can!”  Now, some of these same people may have lost everything they had—and their hero is silent.  Will he only reach out to them in a couple years when he needs them again?

Not surprisingly, the mainstream media are not making accusations of him for his lack of feeling as they did George W. Bush after Hurricane Katrina (and 9-11, for that matter).  In fact, I don’t know what other president could get away with this behavior following such a monumental event.  Where are the reporters on the morning shows questioning each other as to why he hasn’t visited Music City?  Where are the country music stars going on a Kanye West-style rant on national television claiming that the President hates white people…or country music…or whiskey?

Perhaps he’s just busy pondering how we got so lucky again, and a terrorist didn’t set off a bomb in Times Square.  Or maybe he’s thinking of how he can best use the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico to further his Green agenda and the Cap and Trade bill.  Or maybe there are just way too many people down here that are “bitterly clinging to their guns and religion.”  Yeah, I bet that’s it.