While last week’s high winds were unpleasant for anyone living in Western Kansas, Oklahoma, or Texas, they changed life for many. Our hearts ache for families learning to live with only the memory of lost loved ones, ranchers who’ve lost livestock, and those who’ve lost homes and possessions. Despite the tragedy, Plains people once again saw that catastrophe reveals our best nature.
Social media offered a peek into individuals, families, and communities who share this landscape. It’s comforting to see relatives supporting loved ones who traveled wherever necessary to battle raging flames or evacuate threatened residents. One post shared a photo of a young girl who fell asleep praying for her daddy and his squad working 24/7 outside of Hutchinson. You know she was concerned, but her peaceful face and clasped fingers revealed such deep faith. Her innocent confidence reveals how those affected by this firestorm will rebuild their lives.
In addition to individuals, communities contributed help. In short time, groups organized supply drives, collecting water, Chap Stick, eye drops, clean socks, and other necessities to support those willing to leap into an inferno. While many battled flames, others took their places at work or at home, so firefighters could focus on immediate dangers. Hundreds wrote heartfelt thank yous to men and women who dropped what they were doing to protect distant towns. That said, you know these warriors are sad about homes and property they couldn’t save. Supporters' kindnesses offer a balm for those heartaches.
In other photos, junior high and high school students readied sleeping and eating areas for evacuees in gyms and cafeterias. These kids modeled what they’ve seen parents and grandparents do repeatedly during crises. They made certain people had shelter and food. School buses transported nursing home and hospital patients to safety. In this case, that wasn’t always enough. Due to uncontrolled winds and flames, some evacuation centers relocated. You didn’t hear complaints. People continued ministering to others experiencing the worst time of their lives.
Now that the most urgent firefighting efforts are winding down, truckers are hauling hay and fencing materials into fire-ravaged regions. Churches, clubs, and other organizations are collecting supplies and funding for those who’ve lost everything. First responders and others are reviewing their procedures. Those who weren’t affected are wondering how best to help during future events. Many are donating to local fire volunteer fire departments to enable them to repair and replace necessary equipment.
No matter what, it’s good to know we live where people sacrifice to keep one another safe. It’s worthy to note that residents support firefighters, first responders, and law enforcement. We let them know in various ways that their and their families’ sacrifices are appreciated. As more stories emerge, it’s clear that living on the Great Plains is a challenge. Those we call neighbors make it worthwhile.