Nicole Phillips, Published January 27 2012
Phillips: Amid pain, we try to see good after disaster
A north Fargo woman sent me this story, reminding me how nice it is to know that regardless of what comes our way, we can count on each other.
“Sunday morning, Aug. 27, 2007, my parents got up and went to church to be greeted with the terrible news that their pastor had unexpectedly died during the night. In his mid-forties, my parents considered Pastor Bill their fourth child. Bad got worse, because that evening, the tornado sirens went off.
“My parents’ home was one of the first houses to be destroyed in the worst tornado Northwood, North Dakota has ever experienced. What was left of their house was quickly destroyed by the rain that fell right after the tornado.
“Despite the danger of the situation, injuries some experienced and concern about my parents’ safety, an absurd thought came to mind – my wedding dress is in my parents’ basement! I need to get it out before it’s destroyed! It’s strange what one thinks of in an emergency.
“The following week was a numbing blur for my parents, both in their early 70s, as we began the process of salvaging what could be saved, adding to the growing pile of rubbish in the front yard, and allowing the generosity of strangers to feed us and force us to take much-needed breaks (Thank you, Salvation Army).
“The Community Center was filled to capacity within a day or two with food, paper products, toiletries, hand-made quilts, clothing and anything else you could imagine one would need who suddenly had no home.
Pastor Bill’s funeral was held six days after the tornado – the same day that my parents needed to finish demolishing their house and get it to the rubbish pile so the city could haul it away. Time wasn’t on their side, but attending the funeral was important to my parents, so we went.
“We left my husband, son, niece and nephew, along with one hammer and two crowbars, to complete the impossibly large task of getting the house to the curb.
“It turns out they weren’t going to have to do it alone. As they started to work, a bus pulled up filled with young, well-rested, strong University of North Dakota football players.
“No tools needed, those athletes picked up a chimney weighing several hundred pounds and threw in onto the pile, used their fists and bare hands to remove walls and hauled out furniture and wet carpet in bucket-brigade fashion.
“Two hours later they disappeared as quickly as they came, without fanfare or accolades, with my husband staring in disbelief at what had been accomplished.
“The following day, back at church in Fargo, our pastor asked the congregation if anyone wanted to contribute to my parents’ needs. That day about 30 people gave nearly $1,400 to a couple many had never met. I received cash to give to my parents from people at the grocery store, from other parents at school functions and even at the homecoming coronation at Fargo North High School.
“Others donated their time and manpower.
“The town of Northwood has nearly been restored. Much good has come out of this tragedy, one of them being a home that is handicap-accessible for my aging parents.
“But more importantly, discovering that despite what we hear on the news, people care and want to help. People that need help can be open to receiving it, which seems to always give them a ‘pay it forward’ attitude. And the ‘side-line’ people, like myself, can be blown away by the generosity and genuine concern of people, whether friends, neighbors, or total strangers.
“Several years later, I am still humbled by those who were there with goods, donations or to make sure my wedding dress made it out, safe and sound.”
Continue to share your stories of kindness with me at nphillips15@hotmail.
com or send a letter to Kindness is Contagious c/o Nicole Phillips, The Forum, 101 5th St. N., Box 2020, Fargo, ND 58107.
Nicole Phillips is a former television anchor for Fox News in Fargo. She is the mother of three kids and the wife of Bison men’s head basketball coach Saul Phillips. Her columns run every Saturday.