A tornado’s wake, a community’s support

Tornadoes.  Have you ever been stricken by one, or seen firsthand the destruction they leave behind?  Until last Wednesday, I had only seen it on TV.

Mee Mee & Moo Kho, refugees from Burma who work with Prosperity Candle

Mee Mee, Moo Kho and I were in Florence, just 15 minutes north of where the tornado struck in western Massachusetts at the start of its 39 mile path.  We were in the midst of making candles for Amnesty International and had no idea a warning had gone out until my wife Patsy called.  Kids were being ushered into school hallways away from windows, which at first seemed like just a precaution.  But it wasn’t.  Stepping outside, we saw a strange sight – layers of clouds moving in opposite directions.  Not wanting to get caught on the highway, we decided to heed the warnings and wait until the threat had passed.

Mee Mee and Moo Kho, both refugees from Burma who were recently resettled in West Springfield after years in Nepalese camps, live just a block from where the tornado touched down.  By the time we reached their neighborhood, the streets had been closed down by police and fire trucks.  Fortunately, no one they know was harmed.  But others were, and yesterday I saw firsthand the houses torn apart and collapsed, roofs peeled off, huge trees uprooted, and holes punched into brick buildings.  In just a few minutes, the tornado left an astonishing path of destruction in its wake.

To everyone here, across the South and Midwest, and everywhere tornadoes have taken lives, homes and more, we offer our condolences and hope that nature will not repeat itself.  We are especially thankful that Mee Mee and Moo Kho, Beda and Tila (also refugees who have worked with Prosperity Candle), and their families are OK.  And I am incredibly moved by the support they are receiving from friends, neighbors, and both local and state agencies.  Seeing how communities come together in times of need is inspiring.      – Ted

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