When disaster strikes “someplace else,” first send money

tornado tracking

You know the need. At times like this, in the first days of such widespread disaster as Thursday’s southern storms, the immediate need those of us not on the scene can help with is always first and foremost: money. And since the storms were so widespread, it’s impossible to say, “this one place is where you should focus your donation.”

salvation army logo

Personally, I believe contributing in a designated way to the Salvation Army is a very efficient way to support first-responder, essential needs efforts, but there are many others.

I have two “home” states that were hit by the storms: Alabama and Tennessee. (I am an Alabama native but my home has been Nashville for the past 32 years.) Unlike the vast majority of tornado-related events (or, as they now say on TV weather, “tornadic activity”) in my lifetime of growing up and living in the south, this is only the second I can recall where the devastation has been so widespread. Tornadoes, while you hear about them a lot, are typically destructive in a highly concentrated way. They are like stones skipping across a pond. If you live where the stone hits the water, the destruction is devastating. But in reality, most of us live in the calm part of the pond where the stones don’t hit the water.

However, Thursday’s storms were very different. They were all part of one giant storm system that marched across the south in Shermanesque fashion. Their aftermath is more like that of a hurricane than a tornado — broad sweeping regions of destruction and death rather than a narrow row of flattened houses in a sub-division (or, to adhere to the cliché, “trailer park”).

The most similar storm system I can recall in my lifetime was in 1974. I was in college at the time, but I remember those three days of storms with great clarity.

Fortunately, my family who live in Alabama (primarily in the Mobile area and in the Birmingham metro area) are safe and relatively unscathed. In the coming weeks, I’m sure I will be heading to Alabama — probably through efforts organized by my church, and probably with my son.*

But during the first days of a disaster in a location other than my neighborhood or hometown, I’ve learned the best thing to do is send money, thoughts and prayers. And I’m doing all those today.

Sidenote: This week, by coincidence, also marks the first anniversary of what will be called for a long time, The Nashville Flood.

*Five years ago, I drafted my son into such duty post-Katrina when he was 15 and 5’3″. (Being able to point to posts like this is why I am glad I blog.) Today, he is a 6’3″ college math major with national certification as an EMT and soon, state certification for fire and rescue. He spends 20 hours a week as a volunteer fireman and while he’s not the first person in his family to attend college (he comes from a long line of degree-collectors), he’s the first in his family to operate a Jaws of Life.

  • Sassenach

    Interesting that you should point to the Salvation Army instead of the Red Cross. My community was hit by a tornado a few years back and I was a responder — Salvation Army was onscene that night and focused on essentials such as food and shelter. The Red Cross showed up 24 hours later, bureaucratic, and rather snootily pushed aside the Salvation Army. Well, maybe the SA folks didn’t have spiffy polo shirts with logos on them, but they were sure effective. nnThe view was sure a lot different from inside a disaster than what I had perceived earlier, and I give my money to the SA now instead of RC.

  • Without saying anything negative about other groups, I have heard praise for the Salvation Army disaster efforts from first responders.

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