Disaster’s aftermath


A week after a huge tornado devastated Moore, Okla., and parts of nearby Oklahoma City, the prayers and concern for the living and the dead rightly make room for thoughts for the future.

As always in times of disaster, the humanitarian response of the American people was heartwarming. But now, lessons need to be learned if the wells of sympathy are not to be depleted.

Some 24 people were killed by the tornado. Among them were seven 8- and 9-year-old students in an elementary school that had no safe room, just as most of the 1,200 damaged and destroyed homes did not. That is stupid to the point of scandalous.

Oklahoma is in Tornado Alley, and people are accustomed to danger. Moore and its environs have seen at least 22 tornadoes, which killed more than 100 people, since 1893.

The state is conservative, and fear of overreaching government power is part of its culture. But the tax dollars of other Americans go to help places such as Moore recover.

Oklahoma’s U.S. senators, James Inhofe and Tom Coburn, voted against federal funding for other disaster relief, including for victims of Hurricane Sandy. They had their reasons — concerns for wasteful federal spending and deficits — but in their own state, the day of reckoning came in a funnel cloud.

Political ideology should have been blown away. State and local governments in areas at risk should insist on safe rooms, at least in new construction. The cost might be high, but so is the cost of tragedy. It is said that God helps those who help themselves; federal aid should be predicated on it.