Tornados, Floods and Fears

My 10-year-old went into an absolute panic as we drove along listening to an NPR story about the Southern tornado and flood devastation. We will be leaving Washington in a matter of months for my new job at Eastern Kentucky. Spokane has snow, lots and lots of snow, but not tornadoes. The power and destruction seemed like an alien animal to her, one she could not get her brain around.

Japan’s tsunami videos were fresh in her mind and she could not imagine gradations of awful that might be inflicted on Alabama. Once home, she huddled beside me as I paged through Facebook checking the status of Southern friends. I was grateful for social networking connections that let me immediately find out who was safe, whose house was hurt, who knew of those who had been injured or worse. My daughter had more basic needs. She asked, “What does a tornado look like?” Just then a friend posted Chris England’s video, the viral one of the twister approaching the University of Alabama. I debated showing a frightened child the truth of her fears, but I took a deep breath and pressed play.

My daughter watched the storm intensely, and gradually her shoulders began to relax and she lessened the grip on my arm. “That’s really big and scary,” she said. “If I saw that coming, I would go hide in the basement.” Then, she sighed and picked up her homework. Armed with information, my daughter found a way to face her fears. Truth gave her power.

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