How to help tornado victims: Hands, heart and hound the House and Senate

Published 6:00 am Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Sometimes you cover a story from afar. Sometimes, that story is little more than a mile away. That’s how it was on March 3, 2019, as relatives gathered for my wife’s birthday in Columbus, Georgia, yet we spent much of it huddled in the house hallway, hoping for the best. I won’t soon forget what sounded like a nearby tree snapping in two.

We were spared the worst of it, but many in East Alabama and West Georgia weren’t so lucky. There are a lot of people wondering what they can do. Here they are: the three H’s of help.

1) Hands. Stories are pouring in of folks racing to Lee County, or North of Columbus, to help search for survivors and assist with the cleanup. Among those were LaGrange College’s baseball team, who had just blanked Berea in a game moved up to early in the morning to avoid the storm. These defending conference champs used their hands, instead of protecting their valued palms, to help in Waverly Hall. Another LC student all the way from Rhode Island went with friends to help with the mess. Many other Southerners are pitching in, doing their part.

2) Heart. Whether you are a neighbor or far away, Americans are doing their part, helping donate supplies. From church groups like UMCOR and Alabama CBF, along with the work of many other denominations, news organizations are also providing guidance on how to help.

3) Hound the House and Senate and the White House. Let’s face it. Our disaster relief has been a disaster over the last few years. We still haven’t cleaned up from Hurricane Maria, which hit Puerto Rico, or done much for the victims of Hurricane Michael in North Florida and South Georgia. We need to cut the crap in Washington, and stop treating these storms like photo ops, good for public relations, but ignore them in the budget. End the empty promises. Our real national emergency is our government abandoning the governed in such storms.

I’m sure I’m going get a lot of flak for saying this. People are going to be quick to blame the other party, or insist that their own party is doing everything possible. Well, when these areas that are struck stop looking like war zones for long periods of time, then we know the job’s done. Until then, our politicians need to work as hard as those volunteers rushing in to help.

Lately there’s been a darker edge to disaster relief. Some elected officials from the Midwest voted against aid to the East Coast recovery from Hurricane Sandy, but were quick to demand their dollars when tornadoes struck their backyard. Any politician who turns their back on an American just because they’re from a different state needs to be voted out of office as soon as possible.

Look up your member of the House and Senate at Send them each a letter, letting them know exactly what you think about our atrocious national response to deadly storms. Light up President Trump’s switchboard. Flood them with snail mail and email. They won’t take it seriously otherwise. Then maybe by the time a mile-long tornado going 175 mph goes through your neighborhood, your government will have heard the message, and will stop playing games with relief efforts.