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Betsy, We're Not in Barneveld Any More
April 30, 2012 7:19 PM   Subscribe

How does a natural disaster, a tragedy, change people? The Barneveld tornados of 1984 were considered some of the strongest tornados recorded. Survivors tell their stories 25 years later. Here is some video (news footage) of the aftermath. More survivor story video.
posted by JohnnyGunn (9 comments total) 9 users marked this as a favorite

 
In the last link, that wasn't wheelchair basketball at all, that was MURDERBALL

Also known as Wheelchair Rugby, one of the most viciously badass sports around.
posted by Blasdelb at 7:45 PM on April 30, 2012


A good read, appreciated all the more because I am currently homeless. But I am homeless in San Diego and sharing a tent with my two adult sons. The weather is pretty temperate here. We usually sleep pretty soundly at night. There is safety in numbers and there is emotional support and other kinds of practical support. San Diego also has a number of soup kitchens and other resources. There are days when we struggle to get enough to eat, in part because we have special dietary needs. But there is little danger of downright starvation. Still, I am often enormously frustrated at our situation. It is nice to be genuinely reminded (in a non dismissive manner) that, no, this isn't actually the worst thing ever.
posted by Michele in California at 8:04 PM on April 30, 2012 [10 favorites]


So yeah. I can tell you how a natural disaster changed me - I moved back home to New Orleans three days before Katrina.

For the week or two my mother, myself, and a friend of my mother's were orbiting the South, I was basically not sane. I'm not sure any of us were; we were all full of worry and fear. And worst of all we were full of uncertainty - news was scarce and not very trustworthy. Were parts of the city inundated and ruined? Was the whole place fucked? Would I still have a city to be from, much less return to?

Ultimately, it turned out that all of my stuff was trashed, except for the suitcase I had with me, and stuff that had never been shipped out of my mother's place. My mom's second-floor apartment was untouched, though the first floor was inundated, and a hole was knocked in the roof of the other second-floor apartment.

I was very, very glad that I had pulled my hard drive from my computer before I left California. I just didn't trust it to all the bumps and jostlings of shipping, you know? This thread of continuity with my pre-storm life was really important to me, as I moved in with some friends who lived in frigid Boston... and spent a lot of what little money I had on getting a LAPTOP. I will never own a computer I can't pick up again.

My mom and all her stuff ended up in a too-small apartment on the edge of Metarie, which kept her a little crazy for a while. She finally found a place in town, not too far from the area we lived in when I was growing up, and is a lot happier.

In the intervening years, I've put things together. Had a relationship, moved to Seattle, watched the relationship fall apart when it turned out I could not live with my boyfriends' friends and one of said boyfriends refused to leave that situation. It really helped a lot financially that my grandmother died and left me enough money to not have to worry about work for a couple years; I'm very lucky in the choice of my grandparents.

I've also lost a lot of attachment to material things. Oh, I have stuff, don't get me wrong - I'm not someone who could live out of one suitcase. I've got some furniture, I've got art supplies filling a closet. I've got a walk-in closet full of stuff to wear. But if I lost it all in some other disaster? I'd shrug, and move on. It's just stuff. (Of course I'm also working on backing my computer up over the net. DollyDrive didn't really work out, I need to try another backup service Real Soon Now. Once I find one that works, I won't even worry about losing my computer any more. It's just a shell for my data.)

I used to have a huge library, like any nerd. It hurt to lose it, even though I was thinking "man I need to cull this down to like 60%" as I was packing it up. I had it culled to a random 10% that was still in my mother's place instead. But it was really, really easy to cull it further when my boyfriends and I moved to Seattle. And further still when I left the group house we were in. Now I have one large and two small Ikea 'Billy' shelves in a corner, filled with all my books - with room to spare. I've only really started getting new ones in the past year or so, and most of it's been e-books now that I have an iPad. Comics and a very few prose books that really mean something to me, that's all I've gotten as atoms.

Katrina was basically one of the worst weeks of my life. Right up there with when we found my father dead on the kitchen floor on the morning of my twelfth birthday. I'd already thought I was hitting bottom by moving home and giving up on my dream of being an animator, but it turned out that no, I was going to get all my possessions purged, too.

I've been lucky. I didn't die, I didn't lose anyone, I didn't end up homeless for good. I've recovered. Katrina was one of the lowest points of my life, and it's been all uphill from there, to far better than I was just before it.

Although sometimes. Sometimes I think back to the second day back home, when I went to get a snoball at the local stand, and a wind blew out of nowhere and knocked a patio umbrella over into my face. The tip of one of the spines grazed centimeters away from my eye, and knocked my glasses off. Sometimes I wonder if that actually knocked me into a coma - or even killed me - and the rest of my life is some kind of fantasy constructed by my broken brain or my wandering ghost.

And I will probably never lose that fear until the day I die.
posted by egypturnash at 9:20 PM on April 30, 2012 [59 favorites]


egpturnas, and Michele

I've been mulling over your posts since I read it... and really there are no words.

Your bravery in the face of your situations reminded me of Scared Sacred, a documentary by Velcrow Ripper about humanities attempt to rebuild after immense tragedy. I would have thought it trite to say so Michele mentiosn the healing power of the links posted, and egypturnash talks about strategies for staying linked toyour previous life through his computer.
posted by chapps at 8:38 AM on May 1, 2012


I don't think my current situation really requires much bravery per se. My main problem is how to reintegrate back into normal society. That is a challenge for all homeless people but my lack of a home is not my biggest obstacle to successfully accomplishing that. My biggest obstacle is the genetic disorder that I and my oldest son both have. In fact, it is the reason we ended up out in the streets.

Standing in line in soup kitchens and the like is a nuisance and sometimes a real problem, since it can expose me to cigarette smoke and germs and other things which are genuinely a threat to my health and life. But I have done far harder things. I got divorced while still too sick to hold down a job. It was my only hope of getting well. Staying married would have been a death sentence of the most gruesome kind. My ex was all too willing to agree with the doctors that it was the fault of my genes and there was nothing we could do about it. Having spent the last eleven years successfully facing down death while most of the world tried to actively hinder me and actively talk me into politely dying, resolving my financial problems, while frustrating and challenging, isn't particularly frightening.

In fact, I came to this community to try work on exactly that issue. Someone gifted me the account and suggested I might get good feedback here. It has apparently been a week since I joined, so I can post a question of my own. I have a couple of websites I would like to develop and monetize. They grew out of audience interest but languished while I fought for my life and worked to get well. It literally took all my resources and ultimately left me deeply in debt, jobless, and homeless. Given my incurable medical condition, it would be best to have an online income so I am not overly exposed to chemicals and germs, both of which negatively impact me more than normal. I expect to request feedback on my sites soon.

Now back to your regularly scheduled article discussion. Further comments on my situation can be made on AskMeFi when I get around to posting my question(s). Perhaps my reply about my situation isn't really off topic as my own personal health tragedy did change me. Facing down death so long has certainly made me look differently at other challenges I am facing and I think that shows pretty clearly in my remarks. Still, long history tells me the Metafilter policy of focusing on the issues, not the members, is a good policy. Although I am comfortable talking about myself, I am often very uncomfortable with other people talking about me. And with good reason: It usually leads to trouble.

Peace.
posted by Michele in California at 11:41 AM on May 1, 2012


Michele, I am the poster of the thread. While a discussion never really materialized to date, I can tell you that I consider this thread a rousing success based on your two comments, your courage and determination as well as the same from egypturnash. Thank you for participating.

(If I knew anything about monetizing a website, I would gladly chime in here, but alas, I am pleased just to know how to send emails and post here..)
posted by JohnnyGunn at 1:19 PM on May 1, 2012


Well, I would encourage you to check out my sites anyway and feel free to email me feedback, but they seem to currently be in the middle of moving to a new server and are intermittently down. (So I don't think I will post any questions until that process is complete.)

I will still cross my fingers and hope for additional on topic posts for your thread. Thank you for posting it. I needed to read it. The past week or so has been tough.

Take care.
posted by Michele in California at 2:30 PM on May 1, 2012


Brave? I was anything but brave during and after Katrina. I was a quivering bundle of stress, whose animal brain seized on the first suggestion of a thing to do that seemed halfway viable. I huddled in the relative safety of my Internet relationship turned RL and spent a lot of time just retreating from the real world into drawing. I did a dirty web comic [nsfw, on hiatus] with one of my boyfriends, I drew a Tarot deck that nobody seemed to want to publish.

Brave was about two years before Katrina, when I went to see a nurse about grey-market hormones to deal with my gender dysphoria. And it quickly became routine.

Brave was after the move to Seattle and the breakup, when I started taking burlesque dance lessons. Scary stuff for a transwoman! Especially when it escalated to actually putting a routine together and going on stage to take my clothes off. Although even that was a lot less scary than I expected; I'd popped my stripper cherry a few months before when I participated in the "Miss Soak 2011" competition at the Portland Burn on a total whim. The vodka passed down the line of contestants just before my turn at the "lack of talent" portion of the show made it easy.

Brave was when I launched the Kickstarter for my current solo comic project this past weekend. Asking people to fund my stuff was scary as hell. And brave was when after the thing hit funding in two days I asked a friend whose comic has been searching for a publisher for a couple of years if he'd like to be Collapsar Press' third book, assuming both the current book and the comics anthology I'm pulling together on a whim both go well. I felt more like an adult when I made that offer than I have ever felt in my LIFE, and hitting send on that message was SCARY.

Brave is when you have the option to do something else. Brave is trying to get the tiger off of your friend when you have a clear route to the jeep. Brave is standing down the tank after the Army comes to stop a peaceful demonstration. Brave is walking into the hot zone and trying to shut off the Fukushima reactor safely. Brave isn't just keeping on and surviving. Brave is a choice you get to make.

Arguably, I could even say that not giving in to the little voice in the back of my head suggesting suicide during those worst days after the storm was chickening out. There's an unknown there that I didn't dare go to. I wouldn't argue that too hard. But man, suicide would have required planning and overcoming the basic animal fear of death. I didn't have enough volition for that.

When this kind of stuff happens, you just kind of numbly pick up the pieces and carry on. You don't have any choice in the matter. You couldn't stop it from happening. Things are really different, and you just... fall apart for a while, when you can find an even halfway safe place to do it, then you look for somewhere to put yourself together again. Hopefully you'll manage to build something a little stronger out of the scattered fragments of your sanity. Hopefully you won't have any major scars.

I don't think I'm brave at all. I'm just a biological machine that's programmed to not want to die.
posted by egypturnash at 10:35 PM on May 1, 2012 [2 favorites]


From the article in the first link:
But much else got missed, including how hard it is to rebuild, literally and figuratively. Material help is abundant after natural disasters, but emotional support from outsiders often falls short. I learned that hearing other people’s storm stories while you’re digging out debris is not all that helpful. And I saw how stress can wear on early good will, even dividing residents and former friends. As I watch the suffering in Joplin, I’m reminded that sometimes one can help best by putting down the chain saws and checkbooks and just listening.
I didn't live through a "Natural" disaster as such - 9/11 was not "natural" by any means. But this bit rings absolutely true.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:07 AM on May 2, 2012


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