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Published: Tuesday, 6/8/2010

Amid tragedy, nobility

THE deaths of five of our neighbors in the tornadoes that struck northwest Ohio and southeast Michigan last weekend have brought grief and loss to this community. If any good can be said to have come from such nearly incomprehensible destruction, it is the reminder that in a crisis, the people in this area pull together to help each other.

Northern Wood County, where all of the deaths occurred, endured the worst of the storms' devastation. The tornadoes also caused major damage in Ottawa and Fulton counties, as well as Monroe County in Michigan. Dozens of people were injured.

The tragedies are nearly unbearable: the death of the father of the senior-class valedictorian at Lake High School, which was destroyed; the deaths of a 4-year old boy and his mother; the deaths of others who sought refuge from the storms. They and their families deserve a place in our thoughts and prayers.

Wood County authorities say more than 100 homes and other buildings there were destroyed or severely damaged, at an estimated loss of $100 million. Rebuilding the high school in Lake Township could take years, officials concede.

The middle school, elementary school, and township building also sustained major damage. But in a testament to the human spirit, school officials said they are determined to conduct graduation exercises tonight.

There are unsettling reports that emergency warning systems in Fulton County did not work as they were designed to. But others in the area did; had they not, the human toll could have been even worse.

Although Lucas County was spared the worst of the storms, public safety agencies in the county provided people, vehicles, and other equipment to the worst-hit areas. So did other agencies throughout the region.

Groups such as the Salvation Army and Red Cross arrived quickly to provide disaster relief. They deserve our support, financial as well as moral.

And private citizens saw what needed to be done and pitched in. In Millbury, which along with Lake Township suffered the greatest destruction, Gov. Ted Strickland appropriately called a "hero" a woman who rescued and cared for injured neighbors. She responded: "The whole community came together."

Other residents searched houses and fields. They provided shelter, comfort, and material necessities to storm victims. They ignored their own losses and hardships to help others. That's the definition of community. Such examples of selflessness far outweigh the reports of looting by a few reprehensbible lowlifes.

The area will need federal and state financial aid to recover. Even in a time of economic difficulty, meaningful help must be forthcoming.

Tragedies such as last weekend remind us that we don't control nature nearly as much as we tell ourselves we do. But they also reassure us that we retain the capacity for noble acts in the service of others, and that knowledge may be even more important.

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