Edited by Andrea Barkley
The increasing prevalence of global warming and rising sea temperatures has intensified extreme weather events. Tornadoes, a potent manifestation of such extremities, strike the United States frequently every year from April to June. On April 1, 2023, an unexpected tornado swept through Sullivan, Indiana. Its damaging path left the streets in shambles and people with no time to seek shelter. Faced with despair and fear, the affected residents could do nothing but silently endure the tumultuous ordeal.
On April 23, Tzu Chi USA Midwest Region, in collaboration with the American Red Cross, sprang into action. Volunteers from the Indiana Service Center came together to provide aid to the tornado-stricken families in Sullivan. The assistance ranged from cash cards worth $800 to $1,000, eco-friendly blankets, scarves, to essential household items. More than providing material relief, the volunteers lent a listening ear to the survivors, helping them express their anguish over the loss of loved ones and homes, thereby offering emotional healing and leading them out of the shadows cast by the storm. The distribution drive benefited a total of 61 families, encompassing 165 survivors, and saw the issuance of cash cards amounting to $49,000 USD in total.
The tornado nearly destroyed the residences of the survivors. Lisa Runyon, who experienced the tornado firsthand, had hoped it was nothing more than an erroneous weather forecast or a nightmare she’d awaken from. But the brutal reality quickly dashed these hopes. She shared, “I could tell a suction came over to the house. I yelled at my daughter, “This is serious! We got to go down to the basement!”
Likewise, survivor Janice Salka was unprepared for the vicious tornado that pulled her in, spun her around, and dealt a harsh blow. The memory still incites terror. She said, “The wind just picked me up and knocked me down; I had all kinds of things going through my head. I figured if it’s the time for me to go, I’ll go.”
In his state of helplessness, Tim Garrett desperately wished that the disaster was only a brief moment and that the following day would bring a return to normalcy. But when he woke, he discovered that life was far from returning to normal.
Public facilities fell victim to the tempest, private possessions were lost, and the catastrophe abruptly halted a once tranquil life. The survivors, left in shock, were forced to confront this harsh reality. Yet, in these trying times, Tzu Chi USA emerged as a beacon of hope, illuminating the hearts of those overwhelmed by fear and despair. Following the disaster, the local Red Cross obtained the survivor roster and reached out to Tzu Chi USA Midwest. Volunteers promptly journeyed to the disaster-stricken area to distribute cash cards, blankets, and other essential supplies.
Sullivan’s Mayor, Clint Lamb, expressed his admiration, saying, “They never could have imagined that this organization would come in, and just shower them with love and support. It’s more than just a financial contribution, it caters to their spiritual needs as well. They’re not just here to hand over a care packet, but to encourage pay-it-forward kindness, and to continue sharing the goodness.”
Indeed, love and support form the very backbone of emergency relief. Tzu Chi volunteers serve to soothe the lost, reconstruct hope, and instill tranquility in every shattered heart.