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Ready or Not #121: Prepare Community

East Palestine, Ohio’s motto on their website is, “The Place You Want to Be!” And then they had a train derailment with toxic chemicals.

The citizens of the town were ordered to leave because of the possibility of death when government officials set about trying to take care of the deadly chemicals that were spilled. Right now, East Palestine, Ohio, is definitely NOT the place you want to be! It was one thing to get all of the residents to leave, but we won’t even address the problems of trying to relocate all of the animals in the area. This is truly a disaster of epic proportions.

I’ve been listening to some of the residents talk about whether their houses and land will ever be habitable again because of the types of chemicals that are literally seeping into the ground, getting into their waterways, and leaving toxic bi-products from the chemicals that are being burned off. Such a tragedy. This reminded me of the tragedy that hit Greensburg, Kansas several years back.

I watched a television series years ago about a town that was hit by a tornado. It was about Greensburg, Kansas, and it was hit by the strongest tornado on record in 2007. It totally, completely, decimated the entire town. There were only one or two buildings or structures in the entire town that were left standing or were inhabitable. Everything that had made that town was gone, everything that is except the people. Yes, some moved away, and it was too much for even the mayor and he resigned and moved away. But there were those who caught the vision to rebuild.

It was interesting watching this series to see how the town turned around and regained the spirit that was once there. Even though I had just watched the first show, I knew it would be an interesting lab of human emotions and human behavior that we can all learn from and to think about what we might do if something that tragic happened here.

What keeps you in your community? Is it your job? Would you pick up and get another job in another nice little community and start over? Is it family ties? Did you grow up here and want to stay here to the very end? What makes you want to be where you are? It is something to think about.

The reason that I started to think about this was not the long-term implications of a disaster, but the immediate problems of the aftermath. The carnage, as one resident described it, the rescues, and the losses, both personal and monetary. I saw footage of people being rescued; people huddled in shock, crying, serious wounds, and minor wounds – both to the body and the spirit.

As I watched people trying to rescue other people that were trapped, I got really concerned. I was hoping that they knew what they were doing and that they didn’t become injured themselves while trying to rescue somebody else. It took 12 men to pull a truck off the top of an elderly gentleman that had taken refuge in his basement. The truck was hanging over the foundation and had pinned the man underneath it. His leg was crushed, but he was alive. They did get the truck off of him, but how? Did they have equipment to safely block it up? Did they just use brute strength? I don’t know.

The city manager made the comment that he had never seen such a disaster and that he didn’t even know where to start, but he had to get things under control and set something up really quickly or the situation would go from bad to worse in no time at all.

Our area has never seen such devastation before either, but I do know that our city leaders have taken a pro-active approach and have taken steps to plan for just about any disaster that they can think of. That doesn’t mean that it will all run smoothly, or be very comfortable, but it is a really good start.

What I am concerned about is us, the citizens. We are either going to be part of the problem or we are going to be part of the solution. The government, relief agencies, and churches can help to get things going for us after the fact, but ultimately it is our responsibility, as they say, to “step up to the plate.”

Everyone else needs to, at the very least, become CERT trained, and if you are interested in doing more, I know that most city ambulance and fire crews are always looking for willing volunteers.

When a disaster strikes where you live, and it will, let’s not worry about how we are going to get our community set up to take care of things. Let’s instead worry about how fast we can activate our trained, confidently skilled, citizens in our community to make things “all better,” and then hit a post disaster “home-run!”

The people of Greensburg, Kansas, had the option to rebuild because of the type of disaster. Some stayed and rebuilt, but for some it was too much and they moved on. For the people that live in East Palestine, Ohio, they are still trying to determine if they can ever go back to their homes or if their way of life has been permanently changed forever because of the disaster. Maybe some will stay, but I’m also sure that some will move on.

Remember to pray for the people living in East Palestine, those affected by the earthquake in Syria and Turkey, and for those being affected by the insane war in the Ukraine and Russia - and for all the other people and places that are going through extreme hardship.


Photo credits:

1st photo: Drone photo of East Palestine, Ohio, 2-4-2023_by Gene J. Puskar-AP, FILE

2nd photo: Photo of black plume in East Palestine, Ohio, 2-6-2023_by Gene J. Puskar-AP, FILE

3rd photo: Jaime Oppenheimer-Wichita Eagle_Tribune News Service via Getty Images

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