Sur­vivors learn to live with­out lat­est gad­gets

Com­mu­ni­ca­tion re­verts to old ways

The Washington Times Daily - - Nation - BY TOM LOBIANCO AND

HEN­RYVILLE, IND. | St. Fran­cis Xavier Catholic Church has al­ways been a gath­er­ing point for the peo­ple of Hen­ryville, never more so than now.

Un­der a roof with a patched-up 6-foot hole, dozens gath­ered Sun­day not just to worship, but to check on neigh­bors and get up­dates on the dev­as­ta­tion from the week­end’s tor­na­does.

Along the Ohio River be­tween In­di­ana and Ken­tucky, where small towns were nearly wiped from the map, the dam­age is clear from a trail of smashed homes, downed trees and lost lives. At least 39 peo­ple were killed in the storm sys­tem that struck Fri­day night and res­cuers were still go­ing door-to-door in ru­ral ar­eas.

But the storms thrashed the con­ve­niences of mod­ern life, too: Cel­lu­lar phone sig­nals were hard to find, email was hard to come by, electricity in­def­i­nitely interrupted. Peo­ple went back to ba­sics or got creative to learn about their loved ones and be­gin re­build­ing.

“It’s hor­ri­ble. It’s things you take for granted that aren’t there any­more,” said Jack Cleve­land, 50, of Hen­ryville, a Cen­sus Bureau worker.

In many cases, word-of-mouth is re­plac­ing the con­ver­sa­tions that would usu­ally hap­pen by cell­phone or email.

Randy Mat­tingly, 24, a me­chanic, said he and his neigh­bors passed on in­for­ma­tion by word-of-mouth to make sure peo­ple were OK: “It was like, ‘Hey, did you talk to this guy?’ “He said state po­lice quickly set up two gath­er­ing points for adults and chil­dren, at the church and at a nearby com­mu­nity cen­ter.

At Sun­day Mass, the Rev. Steve Schaftlein turned the church into an in­for­ma­tion ex­change, ask­ing the 100 or so in at­ten­dance to share in­for­ma­tion. Vol­un­teers quickly stood to share tips on func­tion­ing in a tech-free zone.

Lisa Smith, who has been Hen­ryville’s postmaster for six weeks, told peo­ple that they could pick up their mail in Scotts­burg, about 10 miles north. She said she was most wor­ried about peo­ple need­ing med­i­ca­tion and she had been shak­ing boxes to see if they had pills in­side with hopes of con­nect­ing them to their re­cip­i­ents.

A lo­cal in­sur­ance agent, Lyn Mur­phy-carter, shared an­other story. The founder of her agency, 84-year-old Tom Mur­phy, had told her al­ways to keep pa­per records. That proved valu­able with­out ac­cess to com­put­ers. She col­lected about 1,000 claims Satur­day alone, and was gath­er­ing hand­writ­ten claims from pol­i­cy­hold­ers at church.

In West Lib­erty, Ky., about 85 miles east of Lex­ing­ton, loss of tech­nol­ogy led to a con­fus­ing and stress­ful af­ter­math for Doris Shuck, who was clean­ing her house when the storm ap­proached.

She grabbed her lap­top, cell­phone and ipod and put them in a tote bag to bring down to the base­ment. The storms took her home, leav­ing only the base­ment and front porch, though she had scrapes and bruises.

Af­ter the storm passed, she re­ceived a text mes­sage from her mother, 70 miles away in Pre­stons­burg, but couldn’t re­ply.

“I was just try­ing to fig­ure out what had hap­pened and get my thoughts to­gether and my phone beeped and I looked and it was from my mom. I couldn’t an­swer it,” Ms. Shuck said.

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS PHO­TO­GRAPHS

Vol­un­teers look for res­i­dents in need of as­sis­tance Sun­day as they at­tempt to re­cover pos­ses­sions from their homes in Hen­ryville, Ind., de­stroyed by Fri­day’s tor­na­does. With rou­tines and com­mu­ni­ca­tion dis­rupted, peo­ple have gone back to ba­sics to learn about their loved ones and start re­build­ing their lives. At St. Fran­cis Xavier Catholic Church (top), pews dur­ing Mass were filled not only with peo­ple but also with do­nated cloth­ing and sup­plies.

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