Saturday, January 2, 2016

Finding Help Next Door

A week has passed since 12 tornadoes blew through North Texas the day after Christmas, killing 11 people and causing $1.2 billion in damages. 

The emotional toll, which cannot be calculated in dollars and cents, was visually staggering as news accounts and Facebook posts showed storm victims sifting through what remained of their lives.

In my community alone, there were 171 structures damaged or destroyed--an estimated loss of $20.4 million, according to Ellis County Emergency Management.

While my home was untouched, the tornado passed just five to six houses down from us heavily damaging several of my neighbors homes as it moved northward continuing its path of destruction. Police blockaded roads, a curfew was instituted and store-bought generators hummed for days until power was finally restored. Although not hit as hard as our northern neighbors, clean up in our southern county continues.

As a rural community, we do not have things in place for quick, efficient communication. Through that weekend, the city of Ovilla website contained no information. Other government websites provided sporadic information.

I, along with my neighbors, found more information and help through Next Door, a private social network community. I’ve never been a big fan of social networking. Sure I have Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, but my use tends to be sporadic at best.

But it was there, on Next Door that my neighbors and I discovered what neighborhoods were damaged. It was there we found out who had power and when power was getting restored. It was there we could vent and receive a sympathetic response. It was there we even found out about official stuff such as the curfew.

It was also there that we found out about whose pets had gone missing. And, it was there we all rejoiced online when Kip, a shorthaired English Pointer, was finally found three days later and reunited with his family. It was there someone volunteered to do laundry for displaced families, and it was there, others searched for personal items blown away.

But most importantly, it was there where human connections were made even through the anonymity of cyberspace, making this tragic event bearable.