To the point week of 04-03-08

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TODAY, APRIL 3rd, 2008, will probably pass peacefully for many people. The National Weather Service is calling for temperatures in the mid 50s and some rain showers during the day – but after the weather that this community has been having, some rain showers aren’t that big a deal.

But for some residents of Switzerland County and around the Midwest, each and every April 3rd will be met with memories that are very vivid in their minds. That’s because today marks the 24th anniversary of the devastating tornadoes that ripped through this area.

It was April 3rd, 1974 when the largest outbreak of tornadoes over a 24-hour period brought its horrible fury on this area of the nation. When it was over, 148 tornadoes had been confirmed over 13 states – including the tornadoes that came through Switzerland County, Madison, and other parts of Jefferson County.

In 1974 I was a junior high school student living in Centerville, Indiana. Some tornado activity came near us, but there was no comparison to the devastation that was felt here.

I remember seeing photos of Madison and Hanover. I remember all of the trees that had been knocked down and the buildings that had been damaged at Hanover College – where I would attend 15 years later.

I remember hearing reports about different areas of Switzerland County. My family often camped at the Versailles State Park, and we would drive down to Vevay to take the ferry across the river on an afternoon drive; or we would plan on being in town for the Wine Festival (the old ones).

But in 1974, the true effect of the tornadoes of April 3rd, 1974 came down to a skinny, blonde haired little girl who appeared in our seventh grade classes one day.

Her name was Debbie Morrow, and she was pretty shy when she first arrived. She was in our classes for nearly a week before any of us heard her speak – but when she did, we all listened.

One day in our social studies class, Debbie Morrow raised her hand and told all of us that she and her family had lived in Xenia, Ohio for her entire life – that was until April 3rd, 1974.

For those who don’t remember, Xenia was considered to be “ground zero” for the tornadoes, that day, with 34 people being killed and another 1,150 injured. Damage to Xenia alone was set at $400 million.

But we were in junior high school back then, so all we really knew was that our new classmate and her family were in a new town and a new school – with literally nothing but the clothes on their backs.

Debbie had new school supplies – because everything that she had owned was gone in the tornado. I remember how torn I was between feeling sorry for her because she had lost everything – and being happy for her that she survived the tornado.

Now, as an adult, 24 years removed from that situation, we all understand that all of those “things” that we all think are so important are really nothing at all compared to the potential loss of life. Those “things” can all be replaced, but in times of tragedy we all understand what’s really important in life.

This time of year brings “tornado watches” and “tornado warnings” to our area and others, and it is a good time to review emergency procedures, especially with your children.

I’ve always been interested in the fact that no matter where you live, there is some type of natural disaster that can affect you.

Want to live in the warmth of Florida or along the coast? You might want to be prepared for hurricane season.

Moving out West? That shaking that wakes you in the middle of the night might be a passing train – or it might be a hurricane.

The Great Plains also suffer through tornado season, as well as drought conditions. Up North there’s piles of snow to deal with.

Even Hawaii has its earthquake and volcano dangers.

I guess there’s no way to escape the risk, so I guess we live with it.

But there are also stories all over Switzerland County of the efforts and the heroism of residents and neighbors going to the aid of each other. Sacrifices were made for the benefit of others.

When push truly came to shove – people came to the rescue.

I’m just thankful that we still see those attributes here in this community even when tragedy doesn’t strike. Helping each other when a need is seen is something that a vast majority of Switzerland County residents do on a daily basis, regardless of the situation or outcome.

It was 24 years ago that one of the worst days in county history allowed everyone to help each other – but that same spirit still carries through today.

In 1974, a tragedy was focused on a skinny, blonde haired girl in my seventh grade class. All these years later, I am thankful that I see that spirit each and everyday in the community that I call home.

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Tucked away in headlines this past week was the announcement that the remains of missing Staff Sergeant Matt Maupin had been discovered in Iraq. It’s been almost four years since the man from Cincinnati was reported missing, and last week’s announcement by the government brings to a close what has been a nightmare for his family.

It’s the close of one nightmare, and the beginning of another for his parents.

I carry a photo of Matt Maupin in my Bible, a gift from Lowell Wayne and Rita Sullivan after they heard Matt Maupin’s parents speak in Rising Sun. At that time, Carolyn and Keith Maupin asked people to pray for their missing 20-year old son – and I have.

Now I pray that they may find some sense of peace with all of this. Many times we struggle to find answers in a situation without one; but here’s hoping that some portion of closure will now help Matt Maupin’s family find some rest.