Tornadoes are horrible … and insignificant

The tornadoes that ripped through suburban Nashville Friday did some pretty bad damage – in my wife”s hometown and along a path near where just about all of her extended family lives.

That big church that was “destroyed” (note to the news media – the church wasn”t destroyed; its face was just ripped off) is just three miles south of my in-laws” house:

And as fate would have it, the wife and I had to be in Nashville this weekend, so we saw a good bit of the damage in person and a lot more of it on local TV coverage. It was bad. Just to the east in Gallatin, very nice and well-built homes were completely blown apart by the storm and in all about a dozen people were killed in Tennessee.

The sheer force of a tornado and the random and sudden nature of the destruction is truly scary. On an individual basis, there”s not much that can compare to the fear that must come from being huddled in a closet with a twister outside and the death and destruction that can arise in a day that starts and ends with beautiful blue skies.

But being around the tornado damage this weekend made me realize just how insignificant – in the global view – even a large-scale tornadic event is.

My world, of course, is colored by what I”ve seen up close and personal in coastal Mississippi and New Orleans during the last 7 months. I don”t want to diminish the personal loss of tornado victims – losing your home is losing your home; losing a friend or relative is losing a friend or relative – but what Katrina did in Mississippi and flood-protection failures did in New Orleans goes far, far beyond personal loss.

In Tennessee, they”ll haul off the splinters and bricks, re-string the power lines, bury the dead and move on. It”s a tragedy for the community, but not much will change. In Mississippi and New Orleans, at best those communities are changed forever. In most cases, a re-shaped community will arise – but some will just cease to be.

Again, this is not to discount the personal tragedy or the fear that arises during such storms – it”s tough to watch your wife try to account for all the family members after the storm or later hear their stories of hiding in closets – but in the wake of Katrina there”s just a new standard for “tragedy”.

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