Editorial: Aid our Illinois Neighbors

Editorial Board

The Midwest region was barraged with odd weather on Nov. 17 when thunderstorms, tornados and twisters touched down in multiple states.

The state which took the most damage was Illinois, which according to the Chicago Tribune, suffered at least 14 individual tornados in the span of one day. Whole counties were declared as “state disaster areas.” Whole towns were leveled, down to the baseboard of each house. Cars were flipped and carried by winds, only to be dropped from damaging heights. So far, a total of six people have been declared dead, leaving six families bereft of a loved one.

Though November is not exactly “free and clear” from tornado dangers, experts agree that it was unusual to see storms of this magnitude so late in the year. Few families would be prepared for this sort of catastrophe with Thanksgiving just around the bend. Right when most of the Midwest was preparing for the season of love, family and appreciation, much of that was taken from some.

When a disaster such as this occurs in a far-off region, it can be difficult to properly empathize with the victims and survivors. Still, many groups rush to provide aid for individuals whom they will never meet or even see to produce beneficial results of which they will never see evidence. For example, students on the ISU campus took the initiative to raise and collect money for typhoon victims in the Philippines. Acts such as this are truly great, as the actors will never see where their money goes or the look on a family’s face when they receive aid.

Think of the heightened and expedited impact of such aid if we choose to do the same for our Illinois neighbors. It was only a few days ago that countless families had their lives and property torn apart. If the winds had blown a certain way, or weather had stirred itself in a different fashion, it could have been Iowa that was ravaged by tornados. Many are still recuperating — homeless, without supplies and struggling to even make contact with families.

In the case of the Philippines, sending monetary aid was the most direct way to help the crippled people. However, because of Illinois geographical and cultural proximity, even more can be done.

For example, think of all the excess clothing or basic living supplies you may have just lying around. Unused or outgrown clothing from your own or others’ closets can be hugely beneficial to families who just lost entire wardrobes. When all you have is the shirt on your back, your neighbor’s gently worn sweatshirts, jeans or gloves are a gift great beyond words.

Of course, clothing can almost as easily be sent abroad as it can be sent to neighboring states. What the proximity of this disaster truly allows is hands-on, personal help.

A short 4 1/2 hour drive could take you and a few friends to Washington, Ill. — a town that received some of the worst of the damage. Studying for finals may be your priority, or maybe you wanted to go out and hit the bars next weekend, but your free day spent helping others is a day less of labor for those who have lost so much.

In terms of debris, there is still much to be done. At this point, volunteers could easily find a neighborhood block to clean up. After the cleanup is reconstruction. You don’t have to be a master carpenter to lend a hand in the raising of a roof.

However much we would all like to rush to the aid of our fellow Midwesterners, we are all hampered by day-to-day life. Regardless, most have room in that life to help those desperately in need — especially when it is so close to home. Whether it is money, excess supplies or precious time and effort, consider reaching out to those devastated by Sunday’s weather disasters.