Lessons from an­other storm

“Even to­day, you can stand on what passes for a hill in Jo­plin's mid­sec­tion, at 23rd Street and Penn­syl­va­nia Av­enue, look east and look west and see empty space. The trees are still gone. Apart­ment com­plexes are gone. The hospi­tal is gone. The high schoo

The Pak Banker - - Front Page - Steve He­bert

IF you didn't live through Hur­ri­cane Sandy and its af­ter­math, it's hard to fathom the ex­tent of the de­struc­tion. Pho­tos and videos go only so far. You sim­ply can­not un­der­stand it if you haven't been through it. Un­for­tu­nately, plenty of Amer­i­cans have been through it, in one form or an­other. And their em­pa­thy about the length of the re­cov­ery runs deep. "I hope they don't get dis­cour­aged, be­cause it does take a long time," said Raye Fr­erer of Jo­plin, Mo., where a tor­nado left a 14-mile scar last year. "Here we are, 18 months later, and we're still not back in our home."

Even to­day, you can stand on what passes for a hill in Jo­plin's mid­sec­tion, at 23rd Street and Penn­syl­va­nia Av­enue, look east and look west and see empty space. The trees are still gone. Apart­ment com­plexes are gone. The hospi­tal is gone. The high school is gone.

That's what hap­pens when an EF-5 tor­nado touches down, evis­cer­at­ing ev­ery­thing in its path, as it did here on Sun­day, May 22, 2011. Winds reach­ing 250 miles per hour tore homes and other build­ings from their foun­da­tions and sent de­bris fly­ing for miles, and 161 peo­ple died.

As Jo­plin's res­i­dents make their way through the stages of grief, they are ea­ger to talk about it. They want to share how they sur­vived and how they're pre­par­ing for the next one, be­cause they now un­der­stand that this kind of dis­as­ter can hap­pen to any­one, any­where, at any time. We all know the risks, and we promptly learn to ig­nore them. Af­ter all, you can't func­tion very well if you live in daily fear of dis­as­ter.

But you can pre­pare your­self for the pos­si­bil­ity, how­ever re­mote, that some­thing like what hap­pened to the peo­ple of Jo­plin or New Orleans, or Northridge, Calif., or New York City and the sur­round­ing ar­eas last month will hap­pen to you. And one of the eas­i­est steps you can take is to dis­as­ter-proof your fi­nances.

The tor­nado here caused nearly $3 bil­lion in dam­age. Some 61,000 in­sur­ance claims were filed, with a to­tal pay­out of more than $2 bil­lion. Of that, 31 per­cent went to home­own­ers and 5 per­cent to peo­ple who lost their cars and trucks.

But many peo­ple did not get as much re­lief as they had expected. The long road back to fi­nan­cial well­ness has been more dif­fi­cult than it per­haps had to be. And those lessons have stayed with them.

Ms. Fr­erer, 58, was at her mother's home south of Jo­plin that Sun­day af­ter­noon. They were cel­e­brat­ing Mother's Day a week late, and her mother, who is close to 80, looked out the win­dow from a small break­fast nook and said, "That's the black­est cloud I've ever seen!" Ms. Fr­erer turned to her hus­band, Fred, and told him she didn't want to get her hair wet, so maybe it was time to head home.

Mr. Fr­erer, 60, is re­tired, and Ms. Fr­erer is a teacher. When they got to their house in Jo­plin, Mr. Fr­erer stood in the road to check the sky. When he came back in, he grabbed a twin mat­tress from one of the beds, and the two of them set­tled onto the floor of their small bath­room with the mat­tress on their heads.

"My chest started get­ting tight and my ears, all of a sud­den they started pop­ping," Ms. Fr­erer said. "They must have popped hun­dreds of times. And I thought, 'Lord, what on earth am I go­ing to do?' I thought, 'God, I'm pre­pared to meet you.' "

She had been through tor­na­does be­fore, and they usu­ally sounded like freight trains. "This one sounded like World War III," she said. "You could feel it, al­most like a cos­mic tug of war be­tween good and evil."

The house shook, ob­jects pum­meled the walls out­side the bath­room, and then, as sud­denly as it had ar­rived, the storm ended.

They stood up from un­der the mat­tress and opened the bath­room door. Ms. Fr­erer could see that the nearby mid­dle school had been de­stroyed, and she won­dered whether there would be school to­mor­row. Then she re­al­ized she shouldn't be able to see out­side. "I stepped into the hall, and the only part of that house still stand­ing was the bath­room that we were in," she said. Money is­sues take an ob­vi­ous back seat to the im­mi­nent pos­si­bil­ity of death at mo­ments like this. But they sur­face fairly soon af­ter.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Pakistan

© PressReader. All rights reserved.