Tornado, Tornadon’t…

She was still rubbing the sleep from her eyes. Hiding behind her mother’s legs when i came to the door with boxes of food, the little girl was wearing nothing but a diaper. Maybe 2 years old. One of three children living in the small apartment with their mother, they’d been displaced by the tornado outbreak that knocked my city on its collective ass about eight weeks ago.

i’m not a fan of disaster porn pictures, but you can get an idea of what happened at this link, and some images from one neighborhood here. Over a dozen tornadoes blew across the western part of Ohio in a single night – some fairly small, knocking shingles off of barns in the country, but a couple large ones hitting population centers.

this used to be a gas station

used to be a gas station

The biggest of the lot (with winds between 166-200 miles/hour) was on the ground for about 30 minutes, covering about 19 miles – and it hit very densely populated neighborhoods, including the apartment complex where this young woman and her children had lived.

Tornadoes are nearly perfect in their randomness – one side of a street demolished, the other having only a few limbs down. Some have moved on from the recovery support already – “Why didn’t they have renters insurance? Why can’t they get to the food bank?” Because they could barely afford rent! Because they don’t have a car, and are now living across town, away from family and friends who used to help with transportation.

Immediately after the storm, i hauled cases of water to anyone who needed it (as did many, many others in town). Food, snacks, diapers… someone called it the “Ratchet Red Cross – don’t wait for rescue, we’ve got to save ourselves!” After returning from the Canadia-land holiday, i found a small group of grass-roots warriors still responding to the evolving needs of the community – people who fell through the cracks.

Spending a few days a week working out of a donated warehouse, with no electricity and no lights, i began delivering food to people who couldn’t get to the food banks. More recently, my efforts have included moving overly abundant provisions (adult undergarments, toothpaste, toothbrushes) to other relief efforts who need what we’ve got. Sorting donations, throwing out expired food. Organizing. Renting a trailer and hauling furniture donations.

A few things i’ve learned along the way:

TornaDO: Ask what is needed TODAY! The supplies and needs ebb and flow. Yesterday it was canned meat, but today it’s cleaning supplies. Bring THAT.

TornaDON’T: Donate things you just want to get rid of… like that toilet repair kit, lawn sprinkler, the martini glasses, Christmas tree. Clothes? Ask first – but if you do donate clothing, make sure you don’t include used underwear, or fucking pantyhose. Please.

this cow - if no one claimed her she was going home with me

This donated cow – if someone hadn’t claimed her, she’d have gone home with me!

TornaDO: Offer transportation – either taking things to people, or people to things.

TornaDON’T: Offer transportation – and fail to show up.

TornaDO: Use the opportunity to ‘Kondo‘ your condo! Housewares, small appliances, dishes, pots and pans will ALWAYS be needed.

TornaDON’T: The bag of toys was a nice thought – but perhaps check to make sure there aren’t petrified cat turds in the bag before you drop it off…

donated - case and manual from a TI-30 (1980's) calculator

Donated TI-30 calculator case/manual from the 1980’s. Without the calculator…

TornaDO: Hygiene items are a hot item – shampoo, deodorant, feminine products, shaving cream, razors? Great donations!

TornaDON’T: If you go to the trouble to package up individual hygiene bags? Please consider putting in more than two tampons… maybe just donate the box?

TornaDO: Graciously offer to assist the nice woman dropping off a carload of supplies at the warehouse!

TornaDON’T:  Say “Can i give you a hand?” just as you notice she is missing one! Yeah. That was me… i caught myself in time, and managed to eek out “Can i give you a… help with that?” at the last minute. i was tired…

While i have moments of grumpiness, and i’ve come home pretty beat up some days, i’m encouraged by the number of people who are still working hard to help. But i keep thinking about that sleepy little girl, her entire world disrupted… Wondering how things are going to work out for her.

suckers and roses - for the survivors

Suckers and a rose go home with those coming in for help… 

These efforts are basically putting band-aids and boo-boo kisses on people who are suffering multiple organ failure…

For now, it’ll have to do. It


12 thoughts on “Tornado, Tornadon’t…

  1. Huge thanks for your bandaids and boo-boo kisses. They are a much needed start.
    The things people think are appropriate donations never ceases to amaze/horrify me. Ditto on the things too many think it appropriate to say.
    I am endlessly grateful for people who strive to make the world better/more caring. They restore my often very wobbly faith in human nature.

    • My faith in people is often just as wobbly… after 2 months, the scammers have arrived. Some deliberately collecting items to sell – and those are the ones that make me cranky. For this effort, i am not in charge of anything, other than moving this box from Point A to Point B, getting a trailer filled with donations to the warehouse, organizing that pile of stuff, etc. i am leaving the decision-making to others. Poverty is complex, and i am not a suitable judge of who needs help, and who may be scamming… (sigh) Band-aids? You bet! i can dispense band-aids…

  2. In this world of gimmee greed, it is good to know there are still people who care about people. From this distance there is nothing I can do except learn the lesson that this could happen to anyone, at any time* and when help is needed it is needed NOW. Thank you for your story, DaisyFae.
    *A couple of months ago my building wobbled because of an earth tremor – in a part of the world which has very few tremors. I have been thinking a lot of ‘What-ifs’ since then.

    • i’m impressed with the helpers. some with resources, some just barely getting by themselves, there are good people helping… even though there was extensive damage in the region, we could still find stores selling water, food, plywood, duct tape. imagining a large-scale, completely devastating disaster (giant hurricane, tsunami, earthquake) where those items were obliterated? can’t even comprehend how hard that recovery would be…

      i’ve never experienced an earthquake, but imagine that it’s terrifying. you can’t really run away and hide when the earth liquefies! growing up in the tornado belt, and having a background as a camper, i’ve got basic preparedness covered. one thing people often forget – when you take shelter? grab a sturdy pair of shoes – because if things get blown over, you may need to walk in broken glass!

  3. Helping, sharing, caring – I do think most of us will if the situation calls for it. But it does happen more when we feel connected to the ones needing help. Last year a neighbor suffered a stroke while driving – he’s much better now but we didn’t know if he would be returning. I helped with his lawn and made sure papers and such were picked up. Other neighbors helped with things too. Nothing that big but little stuff does help. We have donated to many causes in the past. Not sure why some of the items you show here would be donated other than saving the owner the bother of garbage disposal – not helping but taking advantage.
    I just want to say that we need that feeling of being connected so targeting groups for political reasons just weakens our whole society. I applaud you for your efforts and wish you and your community the best.

    • Those ‘little’ acts of kindness are everything! Each of you gave of yourselves, as you could, to look after a neighbor! i agree with you that most people will help if they can, and we all generally want to pitch in – often just not knowing what to do!

      Most of the ‘weird’ donations were probably accidental – someone had a box or a bag of things to give away, and just thought “Hmm… maybe the tornado relief people could find a good home for it”. Generally, it’s meant to be helpful, so i really shouldn’t whine about it. But it does take extra time to clear it out!

  4. Never underestimate the well of human kindness… ( and unfortunately the well of human stupidity.) Keep up the good work lady.

  5. Fabulous, well done you! The same grassroots self-help happened here when there was the Grenfell fire which killed over 70 people in a tower block in London, which demonstrated the callousness and indifference of central government, and what happens f you deregulate building and planning laws. When push comes to shove, we can only rely on us.

    I first read this in a feed reader, wthout the images, and was a bit mystified as to why anyone would donate a cow 🙂

    • The Grenfell fire was such a tragedy! Absolutely terrifying what happened. Seeing some of the spots that were directly hit by the tornadoes here, i’m stunned that there was only one fatality – there was early warning here (minutes, but it was enough).

      The Cow – that cracked me up! Without the photo, i hadn’t realized it would be confusing. From the day it arrived at the warehouse, i was smitten – it’s huge! i kept showing it to clients, saying “Who doesn’t need this amazing creature to welcome them home?” but there were no takers for a week… finally, on one of the days i wasn’t there, someone else was smitten, and she found her new home!

  6. People that care are the ones that ultimately help the survivors through. The press comes spends a week and leaves. Government agencies stay longer and do help, but long term it is person to person help that gets things done. We’ve been through Charley in 2004, so we know. It took us 28 months before we were back to normal.

    • 28 months? i think that’s the minimum it will take to get people back to the same level of struggle they were at before their homes and lives were demolished. You are absolutely right – it’s the person-to-person efforts that are getting it done. Six months later, the relief efforts are more consolidated, but i’m still tracking – and it’s a pretty steady stream of needs. Biggest issue now? Affordable housing! Virtually non-existent in town right now!

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