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Thursday 30 May 2013

Arkansas two years ago, Oklahoma today
Arkansas two years ago, Oklahoma today

Arkansas May 2011

Yi Shun Lai (US) is a ShelterBox Response Team (SRT) member that responded to the tornadoes that ripped through the US state of Arkansas two years ago. She was part of a SRT that worked with Rotarians and the Boy Scouts of America to distribute emergency shelter and ancillary aid to affected families. Today Yi Shun draws on comparisons between then and the recent devastating tornado that struck Oklahoma last week.

"Moore, Oklahoma looks a lot like Altus, Arkansas. Watching the news footage of yet another town in Tornado Alley being torn apart was like being in a time warp. I deployed to Altus as part of a ShelterBox Response Team almost two years ago to the week, and the similarities were way too many to be comfortable.

"Single-family trailer homes, torn from their places and twisted to pieces; the dazed looks of residents trying to recover; the long road ahead that a community will have to travel together. And, in the backdrop, the same American south that is home to some of our best-known National Parks and Historical Sites. The landscape of our collective history, gaining a mark of notoriety for an act of nature.

"Worry is prevalent in times of disaster. It hangs over an entire town or city. For community leaders, the need to find help is obvious. What's perhaps not so obvious is where the help comes from. In Arkansas, it came from Boy Scout troops and Rotary Clubs. It came from school teachers and former mayors and state representatives. Pretty soon after the cloud of worry comes hope, and, more prevalently, action: folks step up to do what needs to be done, and often, they put their own cares behind those of others, because in times like this, there is always someone who needs help more than you do.

Underserviced population

"We don't often get to deploy to the United States, or to Canada. The excellent infrastructure in these countries allows us to rest easy that people who have gone through a major disaster will likely find help. But when we landed in Arkansas, we met a vastly underserviced population, in what was only a five-hour flight from New York, and a five-hour drive from Dallas. We were thrilled to be there, and have since kept in touch with the folks who live and work there.

"Now, as a ShelterBox Response Team works through Moore and assesses the area for places we might help, I'm hopeful that we can provide for them the way we helped to provide for the residents of Altus."

Massive scars

Today Arkansas has recovered in many ways but people will always remember the disaster, according to Leslee Milam Post, Arkansas State Representative:

"We have conducted a major cleanup and I would estimate seventy percent have rebuilt or purchased other mobile homes or homes in the area. However there is no hiding the massive scars of the EF-4 tornado that struck our community. Some in our poor rural area were simply not able to recover despite all of the outpour of assistance. We greatly appreciate the incredible generosity of ShelterBox during our time of extreme need."

Click here to read more about our response in Oklahoma.
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