On March 23, 2014 our county experienced a tragic natural disaster. This post takes a story of a tragic event in our town and lessons for kids in a natural disaster. Many lives were lost in this sudden disaster. The entire neighboring towns including my own town I live in less than 20 miles from the slide embraced Oso, Wa. after a mud slide buried many homes with families inside without warning.
For days our local news broke in twice a day about 9am and 6pm consistently for updates from officials. We had so many helicopters flying over our house. Naturally, my son-age 5 at the date of the slide- caught on that there has been a disaster. I shield my son from certain news stories, but not all. I never allow him to hear stories of child abuse or gang-related events, but I feel like real life experiences such as natural disasters to teach safety and to make him aware of his surroundings can be beneficial when done appropriately and with communication along with it. He stopped to watch a debriefing on the slide this morning with me and the fire chief on camera broke into tears-so did I. My son asked how it happened. So came a science lesson.
A Science Lesson
I took the opportunity to explain to him what a landslide is and how rain effects the earth. He asked if we can be in a landslide and we looked outside to see if we sit on or under a hillside. We don’t so the answer is no. I wanted it to be visual so he was not left with any doubt or concern. “Why do people build on hills then?” I explained how many hills there are in the world and about weathermen and scientists who study hills and how weather effects land and some hills are safe, some are not and some can be a problem, but those who build there know this and hope if there was a slide they would have a warning. In this case there was no warning.
I was able to explain that everyone always is still learning even when you are a smart scientist, there is still new things to learn. “What do you think the scientists and weathermen learned about this landslide?” We hypothesized-that once a landslide occurs in an area perhaps they should forever call it unsafe? My son says Wow-“not even smart people can know everything?” Ding! Ding! That is what I wanted to hear. “Always keep learning. Never think you know everything, Son.”
As we talked about how slides happen and how the victims are left with missing homes I explained how lucky he is he has his bed and toys. These people who survived have no house. We looked around and talked about not having a TV anymore, our pictures, food, etc… but I told him what makes it all better is that there are always people willing to help. “Can we help, Mommy?” DING! DING! Again-exactly what I wanted to hear him say. Of course, I said. I told him we can go into Arlington and eat lunch at a restaurant donating money to victims. We can go shopping for the things victims need and drop them off with people who are collecting things for them. He agreed to head out and do that!
First stop-Safeway for an item I needed. Out front was a volunteer Fireman collecting food, cash, gas cards and baby items for victims and responders. We head into the dry goods section and picked out pastas, sauces and boxed items. We paid and I had him carry the bags to the ‘nice man’.
Next-lunch at The Stump. We looked at the red heart balloons that lined the entire entrance and the sign stating their support. “This town is helping by giving their money they make to victims instead of keeping it!” The food was amazing by the way!
As we drove through town I pointed out all the signs on businesses that are offering prayers or support. Then a commercial came on the radio from our local news stating that there were stations set up from the American Legion collecting items for the first responders. Next lesson-what is a First Responder? I explained. They are dredged in filth, it was currently raining hard and they are having to shower multiple times a day and they need snacks. Off to Walmart. I know I could drop them off at the Rainy Days Cafe in my town and to end the day with a coffee sounded good anyhow.
We bought the requested shampoos, soaps, toothpaste. Walmart had a clearance on 6-packs of bar soap to $2-I bought them out! My son was getting a kick out of being buried. I let him buy a TMNT ball-he has been a good helper!
The last lesson in Natural Disaster accidents he got was a lesson in safety. He had asked towards the end of the day how people got rescued. I explained again about who first responders are and what people should do if stuck. I told him that if you are stuck or in a different room and things break around you, you need to make noise so people know you are there. I talked to him about wires and power lines and if they are down DO NOT TOUCH & why. I let him ask questions and I answered.
I can shelter him and keep from from viable information or I can know that he DOES hear things and he DOES see things. Especially at school with efforts happening there and I want to know what he knows and communicate the proper information to him. To shelter him and keep him from important safety information can be the difference in life or death if, heavens forbid, we end up trapped or separated. As well, if I shelter him from a community who is reaching out to help, will he understand early on the importance of helping others?
This was a day I will never forget with him. He told his Dad about his day, he was proud of the helper he was and loves his new ball he earned. It was a great day despite the tragedy.