Lots of church youth groups (including ours) worked the Saturday after the tornado, helping to clear properties from limbs and other debris. Many community and neighborhood groups used their gloved hands to pile up rubble on behalf of storm victims.
For most of us in Kokomo, the odd truth is that life goes on pretty much as it did a month ago. Out of necessity, we may patronize competing businesses; we may choose alternate routes in the name of speed. Yet unless we or someone close to us was affected, our routines are stable. Our consciences whisper this is horribly unfair, but such is the nature of natural disaster. One house destroyed, the house next door untouched.
Last week, our trash pickup was delayed a couple of days. I thought the delay would be much longer, in light of the tornadoes’ impact. This week, the pickup was right on schedule, not missing a beat. The city and county are up and running.
Scott Smith of the Kokomo Tribune recently reported, “Some 60 businesses were hit by the tornadoes which slashed through Kokomo, with Eriks Chevrolet possibly bearing the worst damage. Insurance adjusters were trying to determine this week how much of the dealership’s large inventory was damaged by the storm.
“Local and state officials have begun the lengthy process of determining many of the costs associated with the storm, but the loss of economic activity might be one of the toughest numbers to isolate.
“‘It’s going to take us months,’ said the city’s director of development Steve Whikehart, who is busy compiling an ‘impact statement’ for the Federal Emergency Management Agency.”
Working with federal and state agencies, city and county leaders have a lot to figure out. Home and business owners are in frequent contact with their insurance agents, who, in turn, have to work with higher-ups in their organizations. Perhaps none of us can imagine the red tape (now relocated to cyberspace) these folks must wade through in their attempt to return our community to a pre-tornado state.
Our seasoned mayor is fighting to speed things along. The City of Kokomo website announced the waiving of certain construction fees: “In an effort to help facilitate recovery efforts, the City of Kokomo will waive certain permit fees through December 20th related to cleanup and reconstruction from storm damage suffered on November 17th. The fees include, but are not limited to dumpster permits, demolition permits, building permits, and electrical permits for commercial and residential structures. In order to obtain a permit, residents are still required to submit the appropriate paperwork to the Permit Office related to their specific recovery needs.” Good move.
Still, speeding things up does does not mean “instantaneous.” It is hard to be patient, for sometimes a wait can take a toll on a business. Many of us remember the Sycamore Street project a few years back, essentially making Sycamore Street impassible for some time – and passable but miserable for months and months. Several businesses went under because of the losses this inflicted, including Benjamin Franklin at the Forest Park shopping center. We can presume most of the businesses affected by the tornado will survive to reopen; the situation is quite different.
During the 1965 Palm Sunday tornadoes, I was probably playing with plastic tanks and Army men in our backyard in Cicero, Ill. I never heard of that disaster until I moved here in 1983. I have no idea how long it took for Russiaville to rebuild, for example. But I am sure it did not happen overnight.
Technology may shorten the wait, but waiting is still part of modern life. Life is better for all if we wait patiently, but waiting patiently is one of life’s most difficult disciplines. Waiting impatiently makes the wait seem even longer, so impatience offers no benefit. We can remind ourselves that all involved — city/county government employees, insurance companies, contractors, etc. — are human beings like the rest of us and (by-and-large) people with good will. They are out to help us, not tangle us up. Some things are complicated and just take time.
Ed Vasicek is pastor of Highland Park Church and a weekly contributor to the Kokomo Tribune. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.