Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Sin, Death, Tornadoes, and Getting a Grip

First, these outfits could probably use money.
They're helping folks in quite a few places, including the Oklahoma City area. No pressure, that's just a thought Prayer wouldn't hurt, either: but like I said, no pressure

Midwest Tornadoes

The American Midwest has had rough weather for the last several days. I stayed up late one night when a particularly energetic storm front was headed toward my home. The half-dollar-size hail didn't happen here, which wasn't exactly a disappointment. (Through One Dad's Eye (May 18, 2013))

Yesterday afternoon some folks in Oklahoma, south of here, got in the way of a massive tornado. They're still sorting out debris, survivors, and bodies: but the bottom line is that many people died, many more were hurt, and buildings were damaged or destroyed.

Like I've said before, this universe is a dangerous place. It's beautiful, fascinating, immense, filled with wonder: and will kill us if we're not careful. Sometimes even if we are, but we're learning more with each disaster. (February 10, 2013)

(from Google Maps, Wunderground.com, used w/o permission)
Several hours after the worst storms, the weather system that included them was still going strong. (10:07 p.m. Central Time, May 20, 2013)

Life, Death, and Priorities

It's small comfort to those who lost family and friends, but the reported death toll has gone down: for now.
"Crews search for survivors after massive twister strikes near Oklahoma City"
FoxNews.com (May 21, 2013)

"The Oklahoma City medical examiner's office says the death toll from a massive tornado that churned through Oklahoma City Monday has been downgraded from 51 to at least 24.

" 'To date, 24 deceased victims of the tornado have been transported to our Oklahoma City office, and positive identifications have been made in the vast majority of those, and these are ready for return to their loved ones,' spokeswoman Amy Elliott told FoxNews.com in an email.

"Nine of the bodies are children.

"Elliott said during early recovery efforts, 51 deaths were reported to the medical examiner's office, but some of them may have been double-counted...."
I'm not surprised that early reports weren't entirely accurate. Monday afternoon and evening was a bit hectic for folks in Oklahoma, and elsewhere. My guess is that they had their priorities straight: digging through wreckage to rescue survivors and recover bodies first; filling out forms and cross-checking records later.

(from FoxNews, used w/o permission)
Houses can be replaced. People: not so much.

(from FoxNews.com, used w/o permission)
"May 20, 2013: Emergency responders and residents begin sorting through debris following a tornado that decimated Moore, Okla., killing...." (Fox News (May 20, 2013))

(from FoxNews, used w/o permission)
"Large sections of Moore, Okla., were completely..." (Fox News (May 20, 2013))

Reassembling Families

Under normal conditions, American towns and cities have very good communications networks. Monday afternoon in Moore, Oklahoma, wasn't "normal conditions." The tornado took out parts of the infrastructure. Happily, low-tech communication methods like shouting still worked:
"...Search-and-rescue crews were looking for anyone who may be trapped in the rubble. Many land lines to stricken areas were down, and cellphone networks were congested. The storm was so massive that it will take time to establish communications between rescuers and state officials, Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin said.

"Fallin deployed 80 National Guard members to assist with rescue operations and activated extra highway patrol officers. She also spoke Monday night with Obama, who declared a major disaster and ordered federal aid to supplement state and local recovery efforts.

"Families anxiously waited at nearby churches to hear if their loved ones had survived. A man with a megaphone stood Monday evening near St. Andrews United Methodist Church and called out the names of surviving children. Parents waited nearby, hoping to hear their sons' and daughters' names...."
I heard an eight-year-old boy on radio news, saying that he was okay, but didn't know whether his parents were alive or not. I trust that he knows by now, one way or the other.

My experience has been that realizing that someone in the family may be endangered, or dead, but not knowing is at least as trying as 'worst case' news.

Treating the injured and burying the dead are important. So is getting families back together, when that's possible. I realize that some families don't get along very well, and that's another topic.

International News

"Oklahoma tornado: Dozens killed in Moore"
BBC News (May 20, 2013 )

"At least 51 people have been killed after a huge tornado tore through Oklahoma City suburbs, with the death toll likely to rise.

"Worst hit was Moore, south of the city, where neighbourhoods were flattened and schools were destroyed by winds of up to 200mph (321km/h).

"About 120 people, including 70 children, are being treated in hospitals for their injuries.

"Search and rescue efforts are continuing throughout the night.

"Monday's twister hit Moore, a suburb of about 55,000 people, and remained on the ground for about 45 minutes.

"The Oklahoma chief medical examiner's office said children were among the 51 dead.

"At least two schools were devastated by the high winds, and there are reports that children are still unaccounted for...."
Again, the 'first count' was 51 fatalities. The good news is that when folks in Moore had a chance to compare notes, they learned that some of the deaths had been counted twice, so the current number is lower.

The bad news is that they're expecting to find more bodies in the rubble.

Unfit for Human Habitation?

I've occasionally run into the idea that folks shouldn't live in particular areas. Sometimes it makes sense.

For example, several homes had been built in a nice little patch of flat land right by the river in my home town. It was a cozy neighborhood, and flooded nearly every spring.

After a particularly bad flood, the town government decided that enough was enough. The houses were already damaged beyond repair, as I recall. The area was declared of-limits for more construction. The last I heard, it's a park. I hope the folks who owned homes there got something resembling a reasonable price for their land.

The American Midwest has very good farmland. I've lived most of my life here. It's also the place that's best for getting up close and personal with a tornado.

Tornadoes can, and have, happened almost anywhere on Earth: but they're most likely a bit south and west of where I live. I gather that it has to do with having no barriers to speak of between the north pole and the Gulf of Mexico.

The weather here is anything but boring. The northern Midwest goes through extremes of hot, cold, wet, and dry. I like it, but your experience might vary.

In a way, it's dangerous to live here. Tornadoes, thunderstorms, and seasonal extremes encourage a certain situational awareness.

Possible, Yes; Practical, No

We can build structures that will endure 200 mile an hour winds. We can even make buildings that will endure that sort of wind, and impacts from assorted 200-mile-an-hour flying trees, trucks, and debris. I don't think we'd enjoy living in them for the years - decades - when a tornado doesn't hit.

Perhaps more to the point, I'm not sure that we'd be able to spend the money needed to harden our homes that way.

"The School Started Coming Apart"

"...James Rushing said he had rushed to the Plaza Towers Elementary School, where his foster son Aiden was a pupil, to see it destroyed by the storm.

" 'About two minutes after I got there, the school started coming apart,' he told the Associated Press news agency.

"The National Weather Service (NWS) said Monday's tornado had generated winds of up to 200mph.

" 'It's certainly the most powerful tornado that I've ever dealt with in my 20 years with the weather service,' NWS meteorologist Rick Smith in Norman, Oklahoma, told the BBC.

"The town of Moore was hit by a severe tornado in May 1999, which had the highest winds ever recorded on Earth.

"But Betsy Randolph of the Oklahoma Highway Patrol told local news station Skynews 9 that the damage on Monday appeared to exceed that of the last devastating tornado.

"Tornadoes, hail and high winds also hit Iowa and Kansas, part of a storm system stretching from Texas to Minnesota...."
(BBC News)
From the looks of it, not all of Plaza Towers Elementary "came apart." There's a considerable portion of one area that's nearly intact. Even so, I'd rather have been in the school's basement, preferably a utility room, if I'd been in the school when the storm hit.

(from AP, via FoxNews, used w/o permission)
"This aerial photo shows damage to Plaza Towers Elementary School after it was hit by a massive tornado in Moore, Okla. (AP)..." (Fox News (May 20, 2013))

It's bad when a tornado hits any occupied building. There seems to be a particular emotional impact when it happens to a school or hospital.

(from AP, via FoxNews, used w/o permission)
"This aerial photo shows damage to Moore Medical Center after it was hit by a massive tornado in Moore, Okla. (AP)..." (Fox News (May 20, 2013))

Sin, Death, and Getting a Grip

"1 2In those days John the Baptist appeared, preaching in the desert of Judea

"(and) saying, 'Repent, 3 for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!' "
(Matthew 3:1-2)
In my youth, some folks seemed to get their jollies by shouting "Sinner repent" and so on: sometimes with what seems a sincere desire to share what John the Baptist said; sometimes as the start of a diatribe about commies, Catholics, and why everyone should hate music they don't like. I've explained how they indirectly encouraged me to become a Catholic, and that's almost another topic.

Matthew 3:2 makes a good point, though. Each of us is no more than a few decades from a final exam that determines where we spend eternity. (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1021-1022)

America's spiritual tone was set early: not entirely for the better, and I've been over that before:
There's a difference between rational awareness of personal responsibility and long-term consequences, and obsessing over sins: real or imagined, committed by oneself or 'those sinners over there.'

Another bit from the Bible:
"And he said, 'This is what I shall do: I shall tear down my barns and build larger ones. There I shall store all my grain and other goods

"and I shall say to myself, "Now as for you, you have so many good things stored up for many years, rest, eat, drink, be merry!"

"But God said to him, 'You fool, this night your life will be demanded of you; and the things you have prepared, to whom will they belong?' "
(Luke 12:18-20)
The point, as I see it, is that being prepared is being prudent, not that it's wrong to be wealthy: or poor. (August 4, 2011)

Then there's the enduring - and wrong - notion that bad things happen to bad people. As long as someone's enjoying a boring part of his or her life, that's a sort of ersatz comfort. When it's time for a personal crisis, not so much.

Telling us that we're going to die isn't the sort of 'good time Gospel' that's been occasionally popular, but that's part of what Jesus told us:
"1 2 At that time some people who were present there told him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with the blood of their sacrifices.

"He said to them in reply, 'Do you think that because these Galileans suffered in this way they were greater sinners than all other Galileans?

"By no means! But I tell you, if you do not repent, you will all perish as they did!

"Or those eighteen people who were killed when the tower at Siloam fell on them 3 --do you think they were more guilty than everyone else who lived in Jerusalem?

"By no means! But I tell you, if you do not repent, you will all perish as they did!' "
(Luke 13:1-5)
Again, this isn't a reason to cringe in fear. It's more of an "invitation to change our lives and to do works worthy of penance." Benedict XVI talked about that a few years back:
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Marian Apparition: Champion, Wisconsin

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What's That Doing in a Nice Catholic Blog?

From time to time, a service that I use will display links to - odd - services and retailers.

I block a few of the more obvious dubious advertisers.

For example: psychic anything, numerology, mediums, and related practices are on the no-no list for Catholics. It has to do with the Church's stand on divination. I try to block those ads.

Sometime regrettable advertisements get through, anyway.

Bottom line? What that service displays reflects the local culture's norms, - not Catholic teaching.