By now you’re well aware of the EF2 tornado that hit Muscatine after 10:00 p.m. on Monday, March 6. The severe thunderstorm warning sirens went off, followed by the tornado warning sirens. My family, like many, fled to our basement for shelter and to wait out the storm. Little did we know the impact that the storm had on the Muscatine community and into the Quad Cities. Eighty homes were damaged from the tornado—80. Some homes were a total loss, perhaps the most chilling being on the corner of Oneida and League.

Charlie lived in one side of the duplex that was totally destroyed by the tornado. Only three walls remained standing; the roof was completely torn off. Charlie was watching television on his couch that evening, something that most of us do daily (or at the moment you’re reading this), when the tornado knocked over a wall, sending Charlie fleeing for safety. The first stop was the bathroom before Charlie made the decision to crawl downstairs into his basement.

I was able to walk downstairs (albeit briskly) with my wife and half-asleep children. We sat on blankets (our basement is not finished) as I streamed the live storm coverage from WQAD on my smartphone. About fifteen minutes later, the all-clear was issued and we returned upstairs in our still-standing home. For Muscatine residents like Charlie, that was not the case. They found themselves displaced from their home. Some had possessions and belongings missing or thrown outside by the storm and were left to literally pick up the pieces and move on as it was still downpouring rain.

What followed over the next 48 hours is nothing short of a miracle, when you stop and think about it. The community of Muscatine, including city staff, Muscatine Power & Water, the Muscatine Police Department, Fire Department, First Responders, Search & Rescue, and—last but not least—individual volunteers, immediately went to work helping those affected by the storm. We are resilient, we are strong, and we care about the well-being of our neighbors. I witnessed that firsthand as folks gathered debris, donated food and water, or just lent an ear to someone in distress who wanted to be heard.

What we also need to do is realize that even though the cleanup and repair process has certainly started, the real damage remains. Oftentimes folks who are displaced by storms like this are forgotten about days or weeks later. My challenge to you is to volunteer your time, donate money, food, and clothing, and reach out to the organizations that continue to aid those who need it most. I recommend the United Way of Muscatine, The Salvation Army of Muscatine, The Red Cross, and any local financial institutions that have set up accounts for victims of the storm. In 2017, our news cycle changes every few minutes. I pledge to do my very best to keep those hurt by this storm in the conversation, along with those who did and continue to do the right thing by helping out.

I’ve lived in Muscatine for four years now, and severe weather like we experienced last week still makes me nervous. Standing in Charlie’s former home and seeing firsthand the damage caused by the tornado left me feeling very small. We cannot control the weather (not as of now, I think?) but we can control how we treat each other and react when disaster strikes. I commend all of Muscatine for coming together and showing that our community is strong, our community cares, and our community will continue to be a great place to live, work and call home.