March 2nd, 2012
06:15 PM ET

Letters to the President #1138: 'Tornadoes'

Reporter's Note: Once again I have written to the president. The sun rose. I wrote. He did not respond. Same formula every day.

Dear Mr. President,

It was so awful to contemplate all those tornadoes ripping across the country this week. I’ve been close to a good many tornadoes over the years; near enough to have some idea of how the sky howls, houses shake, the air alternates between being sticky hot and shivering cold, and it feels as if any moment the wind will close around you like a hand and pull you away from earth.

Here is the thing, however: Most of the time that I’ve been near such things, it has been because that’s my job; I choose to be there. It is a totally different matter when you are simply living in some town that you love, going about the life you lead, and a monster storm drops upon your world with no warning.

I don’t have to go on about how horrific the results can be. The loss of lives is, of course, devastating, but even where no one dies the loss of possessions and security can leave people frightened and uneasy for a lifetime whenever the sky darkens.

There is little to do about it in the short run. We can continue to work on storm resistant homes, and better forecasting models. And we should. But these storms are so powerful and sudden, no matter what we do, they will still visit hell upon our fellow citizens from time to time. So I think our focus probably needs to be more on constantly improving the response, which has thankfully grown much better over the years, but can improve still.

People will still crouch in fear as the storms roar overhead, but perhaps it will help them feel a little more secure, if we can steadily make it more and more clear that we will all stand together to rebuild when the skies clear.

My thoughts are with all those communities under the storms now, as I am sure are yours.


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