Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Alabama Tornadoes And How To Help

"Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, Nothing is going to get better. It's not."
 — Dr. Seuss, from The Lorax

If you ask me, Dr. Seuss is a genius and the quotation above has always been one of my favorites. I like to think I live by this concept and surround myself with people who do the same. I've been lucky to meet passionate and generous readers through this blog and, consequently, I never hesitate to pass along special causes that touch me and those I know.

By now, you've probably heard about the devastating tornadoes (about 165!) that touched down in the south. Alabama was hit the hardest with 191 casualties in this state alone. President Obama called the loss of life "heartbreaking" and promised those affected by the storms the full support of the federal government. When I heard about this, my thoughts went immediately to Emily Butler, a former college classmate who goes to graduate school in Alabama. I wrote to her asking if I could get the word out about any relief efforts and this was her response...

"I am blessed that the tornado's path was a couple miles away from my apartment.  Many of my classmates were not so lucky.  One of the areas hit especially hard used to be full of university student housing, and a number of my friends' houses were destroyed.  My boyfriend's old house, for example, was in the path.  It is still cognizable as a former house, but 2 houses down, there is nothing left but the foundations of about 4 houses in a row.  His old roommates, who still lived in that house, are all safe and have moved back to their parents' homes. 

The pictures of the damage are countless, but I've attached one of a house that belonged to 3 of my friends (see photo on the left).  Others' are much worse, and these friends feel lucky, relatively, because they were still able to retrieve many of their belongings.  Another friend's second floor bedroom was completely blown away; she is getting married in July and lost her wedding jewelry, shoes, and a number of other wedding items.  Others in the law school have lost many to all of their worldly possessions.   However, we have accounted for all law students, and they are safe and starting to get their lives back together.  The law community has been incredibly supportive of each other and the greater Tuscaloosa community, and I couldn't be prouder to be a part of it.

For people wishing to help, one option is to donate to the UA Law Tornado Relief Fund.  This fund was set up by the UA Student Bar Association with help from the American Bar Association.  Donations will first go to benefit law students, then to volunteer support, outreach to specific communities, and the Red Cross (in that order).  

Another option is to give to the United Way of West Alabama.  All donations will be used to benefit the local community here. 

As for information on special medical needs... The storm miraculously missed our main hospital. You can see from the picture (on the right) there that it was seriously just a matter of yards that spared the hospital (those tall buildings in the back are the hospital). Also, this video shows the tornado going straight towards the hospital but missing it barely: http://vimeo.com/22970879

What has truly been a blessing has been social media such as Twitter and Facebook during all of this, particularly for special needs.  Groups like the Tuscaloosa News, the Crimson White student newspaper, Tuscaloosa City, churches, etc. use those resources to spread the word about particular needs.  I am following an especially useful Twitter account, HelpTTown.  They have communicated messages such as:

HelpTTown Help Tuscaloosa 

Little girl only has five more days of diabetic supplies. Does anyone have access to more? Go here and message Delia.http://bit.ly/jaStAl

HelpTTown Help Tuscaloosa 

URGENT NEED: Five Points: Need wheelchair for a child. They need one ASAP in the Peterson area. Post a comment or text me at 205-799-3071.

People respond to needs posted there in a heartbeat.  There are medical tents set up in neighborhoods that were hit, and with the functioning (though incredibly busy) hospital, it appears as though many of these needs are being taken care of quickly!  I never thought I'd say it, but thank God for Twitter!

These puppies were found and taken to
the Tuscaloosa Metro Shelter after
the April 27th tornadoes.

Finally, since I know animals are near and dear to both of our hearts, a Facebook page has been set up to post pictures of lost and found pets.  If any of your readers happen to be in Alabama, they can check that page out to know what missing animals to be on the lookout for.

Finally, you can click here to view a list of various places collecting donations and learn how and where your money will be utilized.

Thank you so much, Maya!


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