Nature and all that it encompasses can bear many blessings. A glorious sunset, a gentle rain and a cool breeze can soothe us even in the most tumultuous of times and perhaps even provide valuable teachings that promote clarity on our life’s journey.
Nature can also be an relentless and destructive force as evidenced by Hurricane Katrina, Hurricane Sandy, the Joplin, Missouri tornado, and most recently the tornado that ravaged Moore ,Oklahoma. In addition to the widespread destruction of homes, 24 individuals, including 8 children, died and another 273 were injured, leaving a community and nation grieving and again searching for answers .
A Bob Seger State of Mind
Against the wind
We were runnin’ against the wind
We were young and strong, we were runnin’
Against the wind
From the song “Against The Wind, by Bob Seger
The day after the tornado, the above passage from Bob Seger’s “Against The Wind” played over and over in my head. I hadn’t listened to Bob Seger since I was in college, but given what transpired in Oklahoma, this song was a contextual fit, though maybe not in the obvious sense.
This passage took me back to a time when we were young and things were simpler and safer, where we could run against the winds of nature, joyfully flying a kite or simply basking in the excitement of the wind whipping through our hair, not a care in the world. We do not live in a safe and predictable world anymore, and unfortunately, we have been reminded of this all too frequently in the last two years.
Losing Our Histories
What strikes me most about the Oklahoma tragedy and other similar events is that both death-related and non-death-related grief occur. In addition to the loss of life, there is the loss of homes that may have been in families for generations, photographs and other memorabilia that have nostalgic value. The past represents our dreams and firmly shapes who we are in the present. When any reminders of that process are destroyed, a part of us is destroyed with it.
I remember once working with an individual whose home was destroyed by Hurricane Katrina. I asked him to describe his thoughts about what had happened to him. He uttered what to this day is the most profound comment I have heard from a survivor of a natural disaster: “I feel like I lost my history.” I can’t help feeling that everyone in Moore, Oklahoma, lost a piece of his or her history after the tornado struck, and in the process lost a piece of themselves.
I remember recently reading a quote that alluded to the belief that a situation or event will continue to reoccur until there are no more lessons to learn from it. I would be naïve to believe that we will ever be immune to natural weather disasters and the destruction that comes with it. We will certainly never be immune to death at any age, now or in the future. I believe that the individuals in any community that has experienced a tragedy of this magnitude, need to confront, honor and eventually transform the pain of their losses, so that they can find meaning again.
What is also certain, is that the community will come together to support each other and will prove to be resilient, and that the media will constantly allude to the resiliency of the human spirit to describe the ongoing metamorphosis of the residents of Moore, Oklahoma. However, this nation has proved its resiliency many times over in the most adverse circumstances. What I believe we need to focus on now is how we as a nation can collectively address the challenges presented by these natural disasters.
Based on sheer numbers alone, many effective practical solutions such as improving infrastructure, installing more emergency shelters, improvements in crisis intervention services, among other things will be proposed. However, there is a greater lesson that Oklahoma and the natural disasters before can teach us: the need for us to come together as one to improve the quality of life for ourselves and future generations of leaders.