The calm after the storm

The worst is over. Now let's get on to the best — rebuilding lives and homes.

How many times has it been said that life can change dramatically in a split second?

Or, as recent events indicate, in as long as it takes raging tornadoes to pick and choose their random targets while hop-scotching across a Midwestern prairie with devastated lives in their wake?

Weather forecasters predicted last Sunday would be a dark and stormy day. It turned into that and more as energetic tornadoes spread across parts of Illinois and the Midwest, leaving a trail of destruction.

Locally, Gifford was the hardest hit, but damage was spread across Champaign, Douglas and Vermilion counties.

Elsewhere, the town of Washington, a bedroom community of Peoria, suffered a crushing blow that left many dazed and homeless.

It's a cliche to say so, but it could have been worse — much worse.

Ask the 18 members of the Schluter family of Gifford. They had just settled down to an early Thanksgiving dinner when the storm hit. They huddled together in the basement just in the nick of time, and when it was over seconds later, they were giving thanks for surviving the storm that destroyed the house above them.

"God took care of us," said Michael Schluter.

That was a common event and a common reaction from dozens of storm survivors. But the same God who took care of the Schluters unleashed nature's fury upon them.

Now God is on to new endeavors, reflected in the rapid response of emergency service workers, volunteers, family and friends who are trying to help storm victims put their lives back together.

The good news is that people will not only survive but, ultimately, thrive. The human spirit is difficult to extinguish. People don't know what they can do until they have no choice.

But it's a painful, frustrating, depressing and difficult process, and storm victims need help from those who were spared.

That help will be gladly given. It's what we do when tragedy, whatever its form, strikes, and our neighbors are in need.

Here are a few organizations that are accepting donations to help people recover from the tornadoes: the Red Cross, the Salvation Army, United Way, Community Foundation of East Central Illinois and Gifford State Bank.

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