Part of this experience has brought to me a new understanding of what it means to live though a disaster like this, which I hope I can share with you now. I will list the implications below. Not all of these apply to every family unit, but some family units will be subject all them, and some of them may surprise you:
- No electricity for nearly a week, with no idea when it’s coming back.
- No refrigeration
- Personal food reserves destroyed, contaminated, or depleted, with no clear way to get more
- No running water or sanitation
- No Shelter
- No cell phone service in the area. While coverage survived the initial disaster, the lack of power in the area eventually overwhelmed providers’ abilities to power the cell towers. If it had survived, there would be no way to charge your phone.
- No news of the outside world. Help is on the way to this community, but many there have no way to know this, because they have lost the ability to use TV, Radio, and even cellular internet.
- No way to leave, in the numerous cases where vehicles were destroyed.
- No way to call for help, or any indication that it’s coming, because of the earlier mentioned isolation from electronic communications
Even in the United States, with all of our resources, it’s scary quickly you can become isolated and helpless. While people just a few miles away are fine, this small town is back in the stone age. And if you were hit particularly hard (loss of vehicle and food supplies) and don’t know your neighbors well, you could be in a particularly bad spot. Even if you have a strong family or other support network outside of town, you have no way to contact these people, or anyone else who could help. This is real desperation.
Fortunately, help is coming. Tomorrow morning, the church I attend is coordinating with Church of Christ Disaster Relief to open a location that will provide food and supplies to the victims of this disaster. So far, this is the only relief effort to visit this town, though I suspect it’s only the first.
As a member of the technical community, I was particularly interested in writing about this, because of attitudes I saw on some technical community web sites the last time a Christian relief organization provided disaster support. Technical folks often have a decidedly secular mindset; a common sentiment was that Christian relief organizations where really only interested in distributing Bibles, and that would be the bulk of the “supplies” provided.
I can tell you that nothing is further from the truth. Churches of Christ Disaster Relief maintains pre-loaded trucks that are ready to depart as soon as a need is identified. Some of the contents of these trucks are perishable food-stuffs that would need to be rotated if the truck sits too long… which doesn’t really happen because the organization is so active. There are several categories of box in each truck: food boxes that contain enough material to feed a family of four for a week, infant care boxes, with diapers and other necessaries, bottled water boxes, cleaning supplies, clothing and others. All of this is provided at no cost to victims, without discrimination. If more material is needed, more trucks will be sent (later trucks are more selectively loaded). And this is just the first wave. Later efforts will even provide furniture and appliances free of charge to those with real need.
Yes, there are a few bibles included (one in each food box), but they are not a significant part of the cost or mass/volume of the materials provided. The organization also often makes use of church buildings as convenient pre-existing locations to centralize their distribution efforts and members of those congregations to provide volunteer staffing at the distribution points. Yes, we do this in the name of Christ, because He first loved us, and we are not ashamed of this. But this is real relief, meeting real needs.