Following the first reports of recent tornadoes, Volunteer Ministers raced from Clearwater to Kissimmee and other stricken areas, teaming up, as shown at left, with Red Cross and Salvation Army personnel. Assists were delivered to survivors amid the wreckage.
he funnel-shaped cloud that bulldozed through Kissimmee on February 23 was but one of nearly a dozen that struck Central Florida late that month.
Following an ominous rumble of thunder and glare of lightning, trailer homes were lifted up, thrown like matchboxes and torn apart, causing enormous pieces of metal to slice through the air like oversized swords. Houses exploded and trees burst in the teeth of winds clocking in at 260 miles per hour.
The devastation had no logic, with some houses unscathed while neighboring structures were demolished. One man flew out of his home, sitting on his chair. An infant swirled out of his room and was later found amidst a mound of debris, 50 feet from the home, alive and well save for a few scratches.
A Kissimmee woman described how her frightened toddler raced to her side to escape the deafening roar that approached like a freight train. An instant later, the bedroom in which he had been playing disintegrated. Mother and child sought refuge in a closet near the center of the house, with the woman fighting with all her strength to hold the closet door shut while swirling winds threatened to drag them out. After the tornado passed, she saw that her own bedroom, just outside the closet door, had been obliterated. Her husband injured his back but miraculously survived the twister in another part of the house.
Working with the Red Cross and Salvation Army, they went door-to-door, passing out clean-up materials and survival kits in the areas worst affected. They also delivered assists to survivors amid the wreckage. (For an explanation of assists, see Assists: A Short Description,) The assists produced dramatic results, helping alleviate the emotional trauma and pain suffered by many of the survivors. The mother who saved herself and her son by seeking refuge in the closet, for example, experienced enormous relief during an assist when she realized that Nothing was going anywhere anymore. She laughed as anguish from the incident passed away and was able to see the actual condition of the house for the first time since the tragedy, noting what needed to be done to repair it. Her husbands injured back was also aided through assists delivered by a Volunteer Minister.
Little inspires more terror than something that travels wherever it wants, touches down when one least expects and leaves nothing but ruin in its wake, said Alicia Nelson. These tornadoes left survivors in fear and shock.
One for one, she noted, survivors given assists were more calm and better able to face the consequences of the tragedy.
Around the world
Volunteer Ministers can move into action from next door, or, as in the aftermath of a massive disaster on Sakhalin Island, Russia, from thousands of miles away. After an earthquake there killed more than 2,000 in 1995, Volunteer Ministers from Moscow flew on a Ministry of Emergency plane to the Eastern Russia mainland, then rushed to the most devastated portion of Sakhalin to aid survivors and assist rescue teams.
Similarly, thousands of assists were delivered by Volunteer Ministers after an earthquake shattered the city of Kobe, Japan, with many more delivered in the wake of other temblors as far-ranging as Los Angeles, California; Eigio, Greece; Jambi, Indonesia; and Cumana, Venezuela.
Volunteer Ministers have likewise aided victims of floods and other disasters, including the hurricane that turned Acapulco, Mexico, into a sea of mud and the recent ice storm that crippled the Northeastern United States and Eastern Canada.
Closer to home, Volunteer Ministers from Clearwater flew to Puerto Rico after an explosion shattered a San Juan suburb. Working with police, members of the National Guard and the Red Cross, the Volunteer Ministers provided assists to survivors and to rescue workers. A police officer on the scene described the assists as very effective for the 12-hour days we were putting in.
On the brighter side, Volunteer Ministers were out in force in Atlanta and Nagano throughout the Summer and Winter Olympic Games, delivering assists to athletes and visitors alike just as they were on hand during the recent Gasparilla festival. And they can regularly be seen at most major Tampa Bay area sports events, including marathons and 5- and 10-kilometer races.
For information about activities of the Volunteer Ministers, contact the Public Affairs Office of the Church of Scientology at 461-1282. Or call the Volunteer Minister hotline, (800) 863-6743.