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March 1, 2013

STAWAR: The New Normal

What a difference a year makes

Tomorrow marks the first anniversary of the violent tornado that cut a 700-yard-wide swath through Southern Indiana, causing extensive damage and loss of life. 

This killer storm was given the second highest rating possible on the Enhanced Fujita Scale. It had top winds between 166 mph and 175 mph and was on the ground for almost 50 miles. Henryville, Marysville, Pekin, Borden, Daisy Hill, Salem and Chelsea, were among the communities hardest hit. Debris from Pekin was recovered as far away as 160 miles in Pleasant Plain, Ohio. Amidst the vast devastation, statewide 13 Hoosiers lost their lives during this storm. 

My wife Diane and I were on the ground at Marysville and later Henryville with the state mental health disaster response team the day after the storm, and we will never forget the twisted and broken trees and shattered houses in the tornado’s path. It looked as if a monster had rampaged through the heart of town, destroying everything in its way.

Even more amazing were all the stories of the heroic efforts of so many of the people involved, including Henryville teachers, school bus drivers, first responders and so many others. The outpouring of help and volunteers in the aftermath was remarkable, 

In September, a number of area churches and organizations acknowledged the six-month anniversary of the tornadoes with a moment of silence at 3 p.m. to remember the storm-torn communities. Church and other bells were also tolled six times, once for each month since the tornadoes. This event was sponsored by March2Recovery (, which is the official long-term recovery organization serving the residents of Clark, Jefferson and Washington counties.

Anniversaries have a special significance for us, since we human beings are uniquely attuned to time. Our lives are generally organized around a yearly cycle of events, as if somehow we automatically synchronize with the earth’s orbit around the sun. Canadian writer Stuart Mclean likens it to riding on an unstoppable train. This train pulls out on New Year’s Day and passes through the seasons, holidays and various personal milestones, both positive and negative. 

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