Great communities are at their best in times of disaster

Posted Saturday, May. 18, 2013  comments  Print Reprints

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sanders Tragedies have a way of helping define communities — sometimes rekindling depressed spirits, reuniting a divided people or simply reinforcing a sense of belonging even in the midst of unbelievable loss.

Surveying (through media accounts) the destruction in some of our neighboring counties after the devastating storms Wednesday night, I, like many others, felt a connection to those grappling with the unimaginable disruption of their lives.

The mighty force of nature that ripped through several North Texas towns left in its wake death, along with demolished homes and buildings, uprooted trees, downed power lines and many anguished people who were not about to give in to despair.

Almost instantly in some of the hard-hit areas of Hood, Johnson and Ellis counties, we began to see the definition of community emerge: neighbors coming to each others’ aid, strangers ready and eager to pitch in, a determination by those suffering to get through it all and the vows to rebuild their homes, neighborhoods, their lives.

This is not unique to Texas, for we’ve seen this kind of heroic display repeatedly all over the country after natural and man-made disasters. It is our nature; who we are.

So, while my heart hurts for all those affected by this latest calamity, I’m not worried because I know these communities and the people in them. I’ve seen them in action before when there were no storm clouds around.

Granbury, which endured the most destruction and all of the deaths, I know particularly well because three years ago I spent time in the area where the tornado struck last week.

I truly saw a community at its best as people from all walks of life were connecting with each other, working together, building not just houses, but homes and lasting relationships.

Habitat for Humanity of Hood County had invited me to observe the completion of the organization’s 50th house, located in a neighborhood northeast of downtown.

On that sunny day, about 60 workers were putting finishing touches on practically every area of the three-bedroom home. On the inside, some were hanging cabinets while others painted trim and did caulking. Outside, briars were being cleared from the side yard.

Not far from the construction site, the mission sisters of First Baptist Church of Granbury set up pots of beef stew and cornbread for lunch. This was a duty shared by several churches in the area to feed the workers. And when everyone sat down for the outdoor meal, it was like one big family reunion.

They were proud of what they were doing for their neighbors, but no one was more proud than Patricia Mosqueda, who would be the owner of this new house. It would be her first.

When I met Mosqueda, mother of a 9-year-old son and 8-year-old daughter at the time, she was living with her parents in a trailer on a Pecan Plantation ranch. An older sister also stayed in the cramped quarters where Mosqueda and her children all slept in the same bed.

Habitat for Humanity requires each owner family to put in 300 hours of “sweat equity” on their house. At the time, Mosqueda had worked 157 hours, but her father, who came to the site every work day, had posted 452 for a total family sweat equity of 609 hours.

When I heard where the tornado had touched down in Hood County, destroying many Habitat for Humanity homes, I immediately thought of Mosqueda and all of the other people I met there, remembering what a great feeling it was to see so many people sharing with each other; touching each others’ hearts.

Yes, I hurt for them. But, no, I’m not worried about them, because I know those people. I know that family. I know that community.

Bob Ray Sanders' column appears Sundays and Wednesdays. 817-390-7775 Twitter: @BobRaySanders

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