Each generation has moments in time that stand out among the rest, whether for good or bad. As a kid, I think back to the wave from Richard Nixon in August of 1974 after he announced his resignation or the evacuation scenes prior the Fall of Saigon in April of 1975 heralding the end of the Vietnam War. As a young adult, I remember the tragic Space Shuttle Challenger exploding mid-air in January of 1986; President Ronald Reagan demanding “tear down this wall!” to Soviet Union leader Mikhail Gorbachev in June of 1987; and tanks rolling down the streets of Beijing, China two years later to squelch democracy protests occurring in its Tiananmen Square. As a more mature adult, I remember 9/11, seeing collapsing towers, airline wreckage, a smoldering Pentagon, and President George W. Bush proclaiming, “Thousands of lives were suddenly ended by evil.”
Some of you, older than I am, may remember hearing over the radio President Franklin Roosevelt say, “Yesterday, December 7, 1941, a date which will live infamy,” following the Japanese attack on the United States Naval Base at Pearl Harbor.
During these times — especially when they involve pain and loss — it’s difficult to make sense of what’s happened. Sometimes, we never really do.
Sadly, we can say something similar of a now-infamous date in Arkansas: April 27, 2014.
The aftermath from a half-mile wide, EF4 tornado tragically left 15 Arkansans dead and hundreds more injured as the storm indiscriminately targeted children, seniors, and all those in between.
Nevertheless, as our state joined together to mourn over, salvage, and care for our hardest-hit communities, stories emerged; stories of heroism, sacrifice, daring rescues, selflessness, love, and giving.
I think of U.S. Air Force Master Sergeant Daniel Wassom, who gave his life to shelter his five-year-old daughter from falling debris; of Vilonia teenager Christian Gunter, who ushered 10 disabled veterans to safety; of numerous first responders, who braved the elements and other hazards to make sure that no person in need of help went without; of local media outlets, who broadcasted throughout the night to help us keep track of developing tornadoes; and of so many organized relief efforts giving resources, care items, time, and sweat to help in the recovery process.
As days turn to weeks, months, and years, our communities will start to resemble how we remember them. When they do, may we never forget what happened in April of 2014. The date may forever live in infamy across Arkansas, but those we’ve lost and those who gave will forever live in our hearts.