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Our Surviving a Natural Disaster Experts

Cody Lundin

Cody Lundin

Survival expert and author of When All Hell Breaks Loose

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Dr. William  Waugh Jr.

Dr. William Waugh Jr.

Professor of public administration and urban studies at Georgia...

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James Lee Witt

James Lee Witt

Former FEMA director and author of Stronger in the Broken...

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Weathering the Storm

Also, be prepared to experience some intense emotions—ranging from sadness to relief and everything in between—when you return to see your home, no matter what state it may be in. Bill recalls the devastation in New Orleans when he returned. “Walking into the house was an emotional shock,” he recalls. “It looked like you put everything into a Cuisinart and spun it around. All the furniture was sideways, upside down, everywhere.

“Most people don’t understand what a person goes through emotionally,” he adds. “People who have gone through what I’ve gone through—I can tell you, none of us are the same.”

From Coping to Conquering

In the course of recovery, it’s important to reaffirm the important things in life: family, health and the support of your neighbors. Most natural disasters don’t happen to individuals, they happen to communities; this will be your opportunity to do some leaning and some helping.

As hard as it may be, try to keep your perspective and stay focused outward. Not only will you provide invaluable support to your neighbors, but you will find your own spirits buoyed as well.

A natural disaster “brings out the best in people,” Bill adds. “Everyone stopped what they were doing and just gave and gave and gave. When things happen, Americans help out. To this day, I get choked up with emotions. I am definitely a different person for having experienced that.”

Your home, of course, represents so many things—stability, security, support. The natural tendency may be to focus on the damage to your house and internalize it, to look to the past, versus the present, at what you’ve lost, as opposed to what you have. During these types of experiences, many people find that their own positive attitude is worth more than any of the possessions they lost in the disaster. Remember that you are not a victim of a natural disaster, you are a survivor of it. A survivor is triumphant. A survivor is equal to any task. You, too, are a force of nature.

“You have to look ahead and not back,” Bill says. “If you look back, you get really emotional. But you look ahead. And then you’re able to move on.”

Posted: 7/22/08