Sunday, July 4, 2010

Seconds Matter

Those who live in or near my hometown of Wadena, a picturesque farming community in north-central Minnesota, are familiar with the neat yards and tree-lined boulevards, similar to many other Midwestern towns.  That all changed on Thursday, June 17th, when an F4 tornado ripped through Wadena.  The tornado hit with such ferocity that it destroyed a good portion of the town in a matter of seconds.

Thankfully there was enough time to send out warnings for residents to take cover, including my relatives who still live there.  My sister's home was only two houses away from the tornado's path, yet hers had no damage.  My brother was a patient in the Tri-County Hospital and he was escorted to an underground tunnel for safety. 

In the southwest section of town--my old neighborhood--over two hundred homes were damaged or destroyed.  Stately oak trees that stood for generations in the cemetery were uprooted or twisted off at the base.  The county fairgrounds, complete with century-old buildings and beautiful trees was devastated.  The municipal pool--by far the most popular spot all summer--was in ruins.  Sections of the community center and agriculture building were wrapped around other business, literally ripped from the foundation and swept away.  School buses and rail cars were tossed around like toothpicks.

The high school (senior high, junior high, and district office) had the roof ripped off and authorities later found the building had started to crumble.  Plans were in place for an all-school reunion the following day, which would have meant many more people in the school. It was eerie to walk down a street a block from where I grew up that was unrecognizable.  Trees my dad planted (bottom left photo) in our back yard were toppled. 

The outpouring of help has been incredible.  First responders and volunteers came to help from communities statewide.  Wadena will rebuild, much the same as other communities that have been hit by a devastating force of nature.  That's when we realize it is the people who are at the heart of each town--big or little--who make the difference, reaching out, helping each other across this great nation of ours. 

So on this Fourth of July it seems all the more appropriate to give thanks to our military friends and families who dedicate their lives and sacrifice more than we'll ever know in the name of freedom.  I'm thankful to live a country with God and freedom at our very core . . . and I'm thankful for the type of upbringing I had in a small town like Wadena. 

Happy Fourth of July to all,

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