Tag Archives: tragedy

When tragedy strikes, communities respond

Ohio's Amish country, Holmes Co. OH

Even a peaceful scene in Amish country can become tragic.

Tragedy. It’s bound to invade our lives, often when we least expect it. Too often, it happens more than once in our lifespan.

Unfortunately, we likely have all seen our fair share of tragedy. Calamity merely is part of life. That doesn’t make it any easier to accept.

I’ve seen and experienced a lot of tragic incidents in my life as a member of volunteer fire and rescue squads. Often I knew people involved in the emergency incidents. That’s not surprising when you live most of your life in a close-knit, rural community.

Sometimes tragic national news hits close to home, too. The recent fatal shooting of Dean Beachy and his son Steve is proof of that. Naturally, people were shocked and horrified at the senseless killings.

Their lives are a huge loss to the family and the many, many people they touched. My wife knew the family well, having taught Steve’s three older brothers.

Ohio's Amish country, Holmes Co. OH

An hour after a tornado damaged this farm building, neighbors came to repair its roof.

Most likely, we each could create a long list of personal tragedies that have significantly impacted our lives. Mine would have to start even before I was born.

My great grandfather was killed in an auto accident involving a drunk driver. The crash critically injured my father and his only brother a block from their home. My uncle’s traumatic head injuries caused lifelong, family-wide ramifications.

My mother’s father was electrocuted six months before I was born. I am sure you have a comparable list of interpersonal human misfortune.

We learn life lessons from tragedies. One is when disaster strikes, people respond. That’s the way community works. What affects one family affects us all to varying degrees.

My wife and I experienced and witnessed positive responses many times over our four decades of living in Holmes County, Ohio. When bad things happen to good people, others want to help. So they do. They bring food, share tears, hugs, and sit quietly with the victims’ family.

Some tragedies happen suddenly, like the Beachy shootings, a traffic crash or a house fire. Others happen gradually and last over an extended time. Likely, we have all known someone diagnosed with a terminal illness.

In either situation, shock, denial, anger, fear, and blame all surface in the face of loss. Often those emotions occur at different times for different family members. Heartache knows no boundaries. To be there is what really matters to the hurting individuals.

Ohio's Amish country, Holmes Co. OH

Barn fire.

As an EMT, I once responded to a drowning call at an Amish farm. The toddler was dead by the time we arrived in the country setting. Still, all the first responders wanted to do something. We comforted the grieving family as best we could.

With the corner’s approval, I carried the youngster’s body to the ambulance where family, friends, and neighbors filed through saying their goodbyes. It was the Amish way, and the officials in charge wanted to respect that.

Regardless of the type of tragedy, whether sudden or lengthy, no one is immune. As human beings, we can choose to offer whatever we can or to ignore the situation.

Those who chose the former realize that in giving there is receiving. In caring, appreciation is returned. In listening, genuine sharing occurs. With your presence, acceptance and understanding slowly unfold.

Human beings have a responsibility to one another, to be kind, to be generous, to be available, to help, to be respectful. There is no better time to express those gifts than when tragedy strikes.

It’s not merely the way a community responds. It is the way a caring community thrives.

Ohio's Amish county, Holmes Co. OH

This Amish barn raising occurred less than a month after the farmer’s barn burned.

© Bruce Stambaugh 2019

11 Comments

Filed under Amish, column, family, human interest, news, Ohio, Ohio's Amish country, photography, rural life, writing

Tragedy can draw people closer together

treedamagebybrucestambaugh

Whipping winds from a severe thunderstorm damaged a substantial limb in the middle of the sunburst locust tree in our front lawn.

By Bruce Stambaugh

When a friend gets hurt, you feel sad and sympathetic. When that friend is injured on your property, you feel horrible, helpless, even responsible. That’s just what happened to my friend, Dan.

A recent severe thunderstorm blasted through our area and in the process heavily damaged the majestic and delicate sunburst locust tree in our front yard. A large limb bent to the ground, but remained precariously attached to the main trunk.

Dan is a jack-of-all-trades, especially adept at trimming trees. He takes every safety precaution and uses sound judgment. When I showed him the tree, he said he was willing to trim the badly broken limb.

concessionstandbybrucestambaugh

Just one of Dan’s many trades is operating a highly successful concession stand at a local produce auction.

My preference was to work together some afternoon once he closed his concession stand at the local produce sale. Dan said he preferred to work on the tree on Saturday morning. However, my wife and I were going to our cottage in southeast Ohio for the weekend.

Dan assured me he would be fine alone, and encouraged us to continue with our cottage plans. And so we did until Neva received a text from our neighbor. Dan had been hurt while working on the limb. I felt sick.

Desperate for more information, I called the emergency room at the local hospital and asked to speak with one of Dan’s family members. After a few seconds of hearing some fumbling with the phone, a familiar but softened voice spoke. It was Dan, not quite sounding himself.

Near tears, I asked how he was, and Dan assured me that other than a broken jaw, a broken shoulder blade and a broken rib, he was fine. Typical Dan.

swirledcornbybrucestambaugh

Winds from the severe storm swirled eight-foot high corn nearly to the ground.

Dan immediately took all the blame for the accident and assured me that he was all right. He said we should continue our weekend at the cottage.

Dan’s son filled me in with the few details of the accident that he knew. Passersby saw the mishap unfold, stopped and lifted the large limb off of Dan.

Dan was transferred to a city trauma center for surgery to repair his broken jaw. I still felt horrible about the accident to my friend. Dan’s family kept us updated on his condition, which fortunately was not life threatening.

We enjoyed the weekend with friends as best we could. But Dan was always on my mind. On Monday, I visited Dan at the hospital and was glad to see he remained in his usual good humor even while still waiting on his jaw surgery that evening.

trimmedtreebybrucestambaugh

Dan’s son, family and friends returned to the home to finish cleaning up after the accident.

On Tuesday morning as I was finishing my regular walk, I got a call that finally made me smile. It was Dan. He wondered if I could come pick him up from the Akron hospital when he was released in the afternoon. Absolutely I would.

On the way home, Dan kept saying that he was just so happy that my wife and I weren’t there when the limb came down. He knew we both would have been out helping him, and who knows what would have resulted?

The injury certainly hadn’t damaged his congenial personality. I had failed to ask for a written estimate for the work, so Dan said he would double the bill from $10 to $20.

Dan is convinced there was a reason for the accident happening. I have a hint about that.

The trauma, the emotion, the frantic communication back and forth, and now the joyful reunion had galvanized our friendship. Better times are ahead. Trimming trees won’t be included.

© Bruce Stambaugh 2013

4 Comments

Filed under Amish, column, news, Ohio, photography, writing