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Johnson Countians have displayed the silver lining of last week's storms

Like many people, I always felt secure in the old belief that the mountains would break up any potential tornadoes before they could cause any death or destruction, acting as a fortress to keep us all safe from harm. For all of us who have seen the wrath of the recent tornado in our own county, our streets and our homes since late last Wednesday night, we all sadly learned that it is indeed very much an urban myth. Like many folks, I woke up Thursday morning to discover the nightmare that had devastated sections of our county.
This past week, I have driven up and down many roads in Johnson County, seeing the horrific disasters that have befallen many of our friends and neighbors. I have seen a home ripped apart in the middle, while both ends of the singlewide trailer remained intact and standing. Homes were lifted off their foundations and projected across the road as if they were weightless. I have seen homes leveled with clothes and personal belongings that were important to someone heaved and tossed by the tornado in every direction, while the home just down the road remained unscathed. In my travels, I saw a dog who sat forlornly near the foundation of the family's home, waiting for his master. Up in the tree just beyond this sight was ductwork that had been flung up into the air and dangled from the branches. The mountainsides were destroyed as it appeared a huge chain saw or sword came down from the sky and hacked the tops of trees and ripped off their bark. I saw a home that had been flung into a neighbor's yard, surrounded by yellow tape where a woman had perished. This catastrophic destruction of a place that has come to give me such peace rattled me each time I turned the corner and saw yet another home and another family whose lives had been changed forever. It literally took my breath away.
The kindness and generosity and willingness to help people in need, both family and strangers, was immediately apparent as Johnson Countians came from every direction of the county to offer their assistance. There were people up on a roof of a house, cutting up the heavy trees that had crushed a family home. There were people cleaning up debris, pitching in to lend a helping hand. There were folks sorting among the remains of what was their home looking for clothing. There were strangers helping strangers. I soon discovered that sometime an act of kindness touches the lives of both the giver and the receiver. People had quickly begun to donate food and their homes, offering victims a place to stay. It didn't matter who you were or if you even knew those offering assistance; there were people to help, no matter what the need.
Expecting a lot of tears and anger, I was astonished at how the people who saw their lives suddenly and unexpectedly change forever showed such courage. Wiping away the tears in her eyes, one woman said to me, “We are fine. We will be okay. We are alive.” The strength of the people of Johnson County is incredible. There was no one that complained, “Why me?” People were grateful their families were alive and unharmed while mourning the loss of those that did not survive. Folks from all over the county pitched in and started cleaning, removing debris, bringing food and water for the victims. Even the people who had suffered losses were out there helping their fellow neighbors. No one had to be asked to help. It was a spontaneous and immediate reaction.
Throughout the county, churches have organized food, clothing and donations in an effort to help put lives back together again. There are people standing by to make repairs to homes, and those armed with cleaning supplies ready to help make a house a home once more. For those people who had access to a computer, both The Tomahawk and the Community Help Board for Johnson County, found on Facebook, would post information on message boards, offering a way for people out of the county to locate their families. One would read a post where someone was looking for their mother, father or siblings. Another person would write in they had seen them and they were fine. With cell phone reception out and no electricity in parts of the county, this valuable venue provided a way of letting others know their families and friends were indeed safe. People from all over have stepped in and helped in whatever capacity they could. High school students made their way down to the Monsoon Thai Restaurant on Route 67 and pitched in, cleaning up debris and sweeping the floors, trying to get the owner back on her feet.
There is a whole lot of love in Johnson County. It's apparent when you see the concern on their faces, the tears they shed for one another and for the willingness to jump in, right then and there, without question, to help each other out in a time of need. These are good people.
They are my people. It makes me proud to be a Johnson Countian.