Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

November 24, 2013

ED VASICEK: Proud and thankful this holiday season

Kokomo community has its act together

Kokomo Tribune

---- — Many people saw their homes, cars and businesses devastated by tornadoes and dangerous winds a week ago today. Most surpris-ing — especially when viewing photos or driving through the mangled neighborhoods — is the revelation that no one was killed!

As we approach the Thanksgiving holiday, it may be hard for some to feel truly thankful. Yet how can we not thank God those we love survived relatively unscathed?

The Kokomo area is no stranger to tornadoes. According to Wikipedia, “The awful Palm Sunday tornadoes in 1965 attacked ... Indiana, Ohio, Michigan, Wisconsin, Illinois and Iowa, with 47 tornadoes ... In the Midwest, 271 people were killed and 1,500 injured (1,200 in Indiana). It was the deadliest tornado outbreak in Indiana history, with 137 people killed.”

The article explained that Russiaville and Greentown were hit particularly hard; 90 percent of the structures in Russiaville were destroyed or seriously damaged.

As I was talking to an out-of-state friend on the phone, she repeated a legend I had heard several times before: The Indians settled on the north sides of rivers and creeks because those areas were tornado-free.

According to the Tornadoproject.com, “The Osage Indians ... passed on tornado legends to the early settlers. One such legend has it that tornadoes will not strike between two rivers, near the point where the rivers join ... One by one, the myths that particular towns are protected have fallen by the wayside.”

The article exposes the myth by pointing to Emporia, Kan., which is situated between two rivers, yet tornadoes struck in 1974 (killing six people) and again in 1990. The river city of St. Louis has repeatedly sustained the devastation of powerful tornadoes.

This is not to say there are no regional considerations when it comes to tornadoes. “Tornado Alley” does exist. According to Weather.com, “‘The Wizard of Oz’ movie in 1939 helped Kansas and the Great Plains become known as part of ‘Tornado Alley’ — the region of the United States often visited in late spring and early summer by dangerous, sometimes violent, tornadoes. Part of the reason why is that the ‘dryline’ — a front separating moist Gulf of Mexico air from dry air from the Southwest — often sits across these states, helping spawn tornado-producing thunderstorms.”

Let me bring these points to bear: Folks who purchased homes in Cedar Crest were at no greater risk because they were south of Wildcat Creek. Some of you might remember the skating rink that was destroyed by a tornado on the north side about a decade ago. If we escaped this time, we could be victimized next time — no matter where we live. In remembering our own vulnerability, we are more prone to have compassion upon others.

The Pilgrims had a rough time of it. Many had died, and life was hard. Some had suggested the community join together to fast and pray. Others decided it was time to be be thankful, and offer thanks to God for helping them survive the adversity they faced.

A number of central Indiana residents will join in the approach taken by the Pilgrims. While the rest of us will express our appreciation to the Almighty, we are not as qualified as are those who suffered loss of homes, cars and irreplaceable keepsakes. I somehow think their thankfulness will run more deeply than ours.

They will thank God they are alive, healthy and surrounded by people who care about them. They have been alerted as to what really matters. They will be thankful for our community and its leaders — political or otherwise. They will be thankful for the volunteers and organizations: the firefighters, first-aid workers, police officers, emergency management personnel, Red Cross, and the many friends, families and charities who showed compassion and care. There are never enough resources or personnel for a crisis like this, but the Kokomo community has its act together. Well done! We are both proud and thankful for you!

Although some of you may shed tears this Thanksgiving, I wish you all an amazing holiday of appreciation.

Ed Vasicek is pastor of Highland Park Church and a weekly contributor to the Kokomo Tribune. Contact him at edvasicek@gmail.com.