The first attention I paid to Hurricane Isaac was well before it built up to its full power or approached land. It was during a phone call with my daughter.

My daughter lives near Orlando. Since Orlando is in central Florida and a fair distance from either coast, it’s not in as much danger of hurricanes as other Florida locations. Still, hurricanes there are not unheard of, and the area often bears the brunt of destructive and devastating rain and winds, even without full “hurricane” status.

While we were talking on the phone, my daughter filled me in on what she knew of the approaching storm – partly because she had access to more direct information about it than I did, and partly because she knew I’d be worrying about her.

Most of our phone conversations over the next week or so included a “weather report” as Isaac built up intensity and unleashed its wrath. I knew my daughter wasn’t directly in the path of the storm, but it was still always reassuring to hear her voice, and to find out firsthand how she was being affected – intense rain and some heavy winds, but nothing that warranted evacuating the area or boarding up the windows.

As I followed the progress of the storm, I was hoping against hope that New Orleans would be spared, and not get battered again as it did with Hurricane Katrina in 2005. And while my thoughts and prayers were with the people and places that were directly and dramatically hit by the storm, my heart and my concern were mainly with my daughter.

I think it’s that way with most of us. We can be devastated, heartbroken, appalled, and outraged when we hear of a natural disaster like a hurricane, flood, or tornado, or a manmade one like a school shooting, bomb explosion, or a fatal crash caused by drunk driving. But when we know someone who is – or could be – one of the victims, it takes on a whole new meaning.

When the Columbine shooting occurred in Littleton, Colorado, in April, 1999, my family was living in Colorado, and I was teaching a class at the grammar school my kids attended. Although the shooting took place at a high school, and the town we lived in was about 50 miles from Littleton, we received a number of calls over the next few days from concerned friends and family members in different parts of the country, making sure that we were okay.

We were shocked and saddened by the shooting, but also touched by the concern everyone had for us.  It
was the same way years before that, when the neighborhood in Illinois that we lived in was struck by a tornado. Power was knocked out by the storm, and the entrances to our subdivision were blocked almost immediately to all but
emergency vehicles.  We were okay, and  although I was concerned for my neighbors who had been hit more directly, I was also concerned for the people who I knew would be worried sick about us. Many told us later how scared and frustrated they were when they were unable to reach us.

Sometimes, in the face of a widespread disaster that happens somewhere else, I feel a little guilty for feeling more worry and concern for one or a few people – my family and friends – than for dozens or hundreds or thousands who were affected more seriously. But I also think it’s when we have a personal connection that we’re more powerfully called to action.

Many of us donate regularly to disaster relief funds and special collections taken up in church for the victims of those disasters. But when someone we know or love is affected, that’s what lights a fire in us. I can easily name dozens of organizations that were started, and some laws that were changed, when someone took action because of a friend or family member who was struck by a tragedy of some kind. And those actions, organizations, and laws can end up helping thousands, or even millions, of people.

As Hurricane Isaac started pushing inland and upwards, weather reports contained news and warnings of other storms that were already approaching, and I guess that’s the way it will always be. We’ll always have storms and tragedies and disasters to contend with. And loved ones who may be in their paths. So I’ll continue to pray and to worry and to reassure and to help –  whenever, wherever, and however I can.

I hope you will, too.

The column “Find Your Buried Treasure” appears weekly in the Chanhassen (MN) Villager. This column was published on September 6, 2012.

© Betty Liedtke, 2012

I welcome your comments on this column. Please be aware that all comments require approval before appearing on this blog. This is to protect all of us from unwanted spam.