After the Tornado

First, she realized her bird feeders were gone.

Betty had looked out this kitchen window for seven decades, but she had never seen the neighbor’s house. Until ten minutes before, massive century-old trees shielded her view with shaded protection. The tornado had taken them in moments. Betty soon realized that the tornado had also taken her confidence. Could she manage the cleanup? Afford the repairs? The bigger question nagged at her: could she still live independently?

Sara had an emergency kit on the hook by the basement stairs. As a single mom, she didn’t leave anything to chance. Yet, it didn’t occur to her that she might be on the road with all the kids when a tornado formed over their car. She didn’t have a plan for this. Nobody was hurt, but she was shaken by the idea that their health and safety really just boiled down to dumb luck. Sometimes that made her grateful, but often it just made her feel hopeless- or angry.

Ten weeks after the tornado, insurance settlements are being finalized and contractors are at work. Betty, Sara, and so many others are facing the questions that are keeping them from moving forward.

With the expert assistance of JRNY Counseling and grant funding from the South Madison Community Foundation, the Pendleton Community Public Library hosted sessions for the public to share their experiences and their lingering concerns. Participants ranged from 8 to 88 years old.

Here are some takeaways from the program for those who could not attend:

  1. Your feelings are valid. Feel free to own and express them.  If you are a parent, be open with your children. Remind them that even though you were scared, everything turned out okay. As their parent, you will do whatever is needed to keep them safe.
  2. Expect that there may be some regression in younger children.  For example, a six year old may revert back to thumb-sucking or carrying a favorite toy.  Parents should be understanding as kids work through this.
  3. Re-visit and revise your emergency plan, taking into account what you have learned. Improving your preparation will reduce anxiety.
  4. Ask for help. Reach out to school counselors, community organizations, churches, members of the Long Term Recovery Group, or others to work through the problems you may still be having. Our post-tornado community spirit is still with us; we are still “Better Together.”