Sometimes Bad Things Have to Happen Before Good Things CanBecca Fitzpatrick
Each September has me thinking about the anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, especially this year with it being the 20th anniversary. It saddens me every year to recount the events of that day and watch memorial ceremonies. It also saddens me to recall how this country rallied around each other on 9/12; we found that there was more that united us than divided us. Now 20 years later, our country is so divided on so many fronts. It is disheartening. Enter a tornado..
On September 1st, our region in Southeastern PA was under seven different tornado warnings in one evening; several touched down wielding wild winds and destruction. Unfortunately, one the size of four football fields made its way through Ft. Washington, Upper Dublin, and Horsham (the town where I live). The 20 or more tornado and flash flood alerts we received that night were unnerving, but I was one of the lucky ones. The tornado skirted my neighbor by about 1/2 mile. Others were not so lucky.
On Thursday morning, 9/2, I received word that there had been significant damage to the school at which I teach. We were set to return on 9/7 with students on 9/8. The tornado lifted part of the roof off on the older side of the building. The four – seven inches of rain that fell completely destroyed two classrooms and seriously damaged many others. While it has been a very challenging couple of weeks, it looks like we will open on 9/20. This is no small feat, and it is only through the leadership of the principal and unbelievable support and help from faculty, parents, and contractors. Again, I was one of the lucky teachers who did not lose classroom and personal belongings.
On Friday, a parent invited me to join an Upper Dublin Facebook page (UD Storm Damage 9/1 Helping Hands) set up to help with disaster recovery. Here is where my faith in humanity was restored beyond belief. While I don’t live in Upper Dublin, many of our school families live there, and so many residents took a huge hit; many losing everything. Yet, seeing how this community ralled around each other was amazing.
What did they do? Everything and anything.
- Organized chainsaw crews to help cut and remove trees to clear properties. There were men, women, and children with lots of muscle power.
- Set up meal trains and ran errands.
- Helped find short term housing for displaced residents – some offering their own homes and extra bedrooms and then helping to pack salvagable items from their homes
- Gathered supplies – generators, rakes, gloves, lawn bags, water, gatorade, plastic containers – they found a need – they found the supplies
- Offered to foster family pets.
- Collected books for schools that lost their classroom libraries, (There were three schools including mine impacted by the storm.
- Kids had lemonade and bake sales
- People drove around bringing sandwiches and snacks for the workers
- Community businesses stepped up by donating food, supplies, and services such as places to shower and charge electronics, mental health help and yoga classes.
- People offered childcare including for children attending the public schools.
- Lists of places to find help in the county as well as FEMA were shared. If someone posted a question many people offered solutions.
- Sold t-shirts and magnets to raise money for disaster relief
I am sure I have forgotten some of the wonderful works of mercy these community members offered to one another, but I will never forget the awe and joy I experienced when I read each new post. Just when I thought I had seen the very best, another generous offer of service surfaced. I felt like those days after 9/11 when we were kinder to one another and respected each other. No one cared if the generous people who offered help or the thankful recipients were Democrat or Republican, Christian or Jew, old or young. They are all just UD Strong.
The thing that I am most thankful for is that these selfless humans are being great role models for the children. The children who lost their homes or possessions see that they are not alone; the children who are helping with the recovery see and feel how good it is to be of service to another without an expectation of tangible reward. My hope is that this is the beginning of positive change.