Former President Ronald Reagan once said that these were the nine most terrifying words in the English language. As you already know, tornadoes tore through the Southeastern United States on April 27th leaving behind huge areas of devastation and hundreds dead.
In Bartow County, Georgia, local churches immediately sprung into action, some that had lost their buildings, with relief efforts. There was a massive outpouring from the community in the way of donations. Distribution and collection centers were set up and started operating with about twenty-four to forty-eight hours. I helped this past Friday and Saturday with loading supplies and taking them into one of the hardest hit areas of Bartow County, and had the opportunity to speak with a Cartersville Firefighter who was overseeing one of the collection/distribution sites. He said that they had been overwhelmed with donations. The building was full of food, water, and other supplies, and a serving line had been set up for the tornado victims to come and have a hot meal. One of the area ministries had a cooker set up there, and had another one at one of the other sites cooking food. Keep in mind this was only two days later. The firefighter sent us to another location that needed what our church had brought. Donations kept pouring in from our area and from other communities too. People were on Facebook offering housing to tornado victims, and a Facebook PAGE was set up to share information about relief efforts.
Now enter FEMA this past Monday, five days after the storm.
By the way, where are all of President Bush's critics who railed on him for it taking four days for them to get into New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina? I have not heard a one of them say one word about five days this time, and all of our interstate highways and secondary highways were open the entire time. Just a thought.
Anyway, Monday night I started seeing Facebook posts from volunteers who were still at area churches that were set up as collection/distribution points saying that FEMA had come in and shut down the distribution of relief supplies, including food, to the tornado victims. You read that right, shut down the distribution. Notice it was just the churches. I don't hear any "separation of church and state" complaints here. ACLU, Americans United for Separation of Church and State, comments? Didn't think so. I wonder if FEMA would have been so eager to stop an Islamic mosque. Somehow, I don't think so.
The reason FEMA gave was to ensure that supplies were distributed "fairly and evenly." Fairly and evenly?? No two victims have the same needs. One family might need food only, another clothing only, another both, and another everything including toiletries, and so on. The tornadoes didn't distribute the damage "fairly and evenly." From what I have seen, victims are being honest and taking only what they need. Some do not need much, others need a lot. Everybody doesn't all need the same things. Badly needed supplies were there and distribution started almost immediately after the storm with volunteers walking into some areas inaccessible by vehicle to get to victims. But FEMA had a problem with this. I believe that it was because aid had come in so fast without any help from the government, but from the people.
One person posted the telephone numbers to FOX 5 NEWS in Atlanta and 11 ALIVE NEWS, also in Atlanta, urging people to call them and let them know what was going on. People did. I was one of several commenters who told them to continue their relief efforts as FEMA did not have the authority to stop them as individuals, churches, or any other charitable organization. I made the same comment on all the posts I could find on the community Facebook page and people's individual sites to get the word out the only way to stop government from overstepping its boundaries was to stand up to them. A short time later, 11 Alive News told one caller the same thing.
What happened next was exactly what should have happened. Late Monday night, volunteers were posting that they did indeed make a stand, stood up to FEMA, and continued with giving out and delivering supplies to the victims. The churches did not shut down, but continued with their efforts.
Yesterday morning, a FEMA representative approached one of the volunteers and told her that FEMA was not involved because the community had pulled together so well and they were going to go help (there's one of those scary words again!) others. Here's the government-speak translation of that statement: "We The People stood up to us knowing we had no legal authority to stop them from helping the victims, so we're outta here."
This is the way it's done. In present-day America, we all need to be educated about our Constitutional rights, what the Constitution says about the limits of Federal government authority, and know what the government can and cannot do. The government schools cannot be depended on for this. Research it for yourself and learn it. This knowledge might be necessary at a moment's notice at any time. Who would have ever thought that such information would be needed in the middle of a disaster area, at a church providing aid to disaster victims? It can happen anywhere, and the only way to stop it is to stand up to them. Government many times depends on people not knowing and will say and do things they are not permitted to do, but many will stand by and let them do it because they are the government, and must know what they are doing.
It was awesome to see people who not only knew otherwise, but had the backbone to not back down. One person who had posted a lot of this on her Facebook wall replied to my comment which was very similar to the preceding: "I agree with you 100%...we def stood our ground...operation will cont as normal...thank you."
Well done folks! Now the work of helping our neighbors can go on smoothly.