Sunday, May 22nd, 2011: That is a day people around here will never forget. I remember standing in the maw of my open garage holding an iPad with the weather radar running on it. The weather map showed that a tornado was on top of me. Amanda, Julia and Huxley were in the basement preparing for the worst. But, strangely, the rain was falling striaght down and there was not a whiff of wind.

That’s when I heard the freight train coming. Problem was, that train was running were there were no tracks….

The wind never did pick up. I could hear the tornado pass by to my left, in the east. And as it went by and for some time thereafter, tiny bits of leaves that had been ripped from trees and shredded, hail battered from a trip thousands of feet aloft, started to fall with the rain drops on my neighborhood. In the end, that’s all that happened to us … a strange green rain and the sound of a freight train where there shouldn’t be one.

Later, I drove in the general direction of the tornado’s path, and not very far from our house the green leaf-fall gave way to a Zone of Scrap Insulation. Homes had been ripped apart somewhere far away, and the pink and yellow insulation was sucked out of the walls and attics, carried like the leaves aloft, but being heavier and rain soaked, fell only one or two miles away instead of five or six miles away.

If you were an evil meteorologist somehow in control of the weather and you wanted to make a tornado do something bad, you could not have picked a better, or should I say, worse course for this twister. The storm this tornado came from tracked across the wealthiest suburbs in the Twin Cities, then a light industrial region, and then just as it approached one of the more economically challenged areas of Minneapolis, which we know as “North,” it dropped the twister to the ground to start its trail of destruction. The tornado traveled the long way across North Minneapolis, moving fairly slowly and ripping up countless trees and damaging or destroying numerous structures. Minneapolis is famous for its dilapidated and leaning garages. This is not so much a poverty or neighborhood related thing… it’s just that Minnesotans have a “that’s good enough” approach to luxuries like garages (and boat houses). They are built to last .. a while. So time and again a home was damaged but still standing, but the garage was just plain gone, or turned to strewn-out rubble.

In the end, two died, 3,713 homes were damaged, 274 with very major damage. It’s a working class and poor neighborhood; Seventy four percent of the residence did not have adequate insurance. Even though the tornado was in the Spring, there are people still trying to get their homes prepared for winter. North Minneapolis is a place where neighbors pay attention to each other and their needs, and take care of each other as best they can. The rebuilding has been a community effort, and the city, under the leadership of a very good mayor (RT Rybak) has helped alot.

There were a lot of other bad tornadoes this year, where many more people died, and much more destruction occurred, and some of those hit places where people did not have much of a cushion, as is the case with North Minneapolis. But that doesn’t mean that it didn’t happen, or that people don’t need your help.

In fact, I have a very specific suggestion for you if you’d like to help! I know you want to encourage science in the classroom, so you might be concerned to know that among the events that occurred that day was damage to one of the areas schools. The Sojourner Truth Academy.

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They had major damage to the roof, many windows were broken, and materials in classrooms were strewn about and destroyed by water and wind. Rebuilding has been fairly expensive. Here’s what Ms. Wydeven, has to say about her students:

My little Minnesotans come from a difficult neighborhood struck with poverty, and due to the recent tornado, their lives have lost some stability. My students are majority African-American and Latino/Hispanic. They love school and work hard to make themselves and their families proud. They love their school and after the recent tornado, they came with their families and friends to help clean up the debris that littered their playground and classrooms. They deserve the best, and with your help, they can have it!

Ms. Wydeven is asking, through the Donors Choose program, for help to purchase some microscopoes. Again, Ms. Wydeven:

… middle school Biology standards focus on cell structure, organisms and tissues. Microscopes help students see and understand microorganisms in their own classroom, and they allow students to manipulate materials and design experiments to better understand living things. We are in need of 2 classroom microscopes! Currently we have no microscopes and very little biology equipment in general. Your generosity could help inspire future biologists, and maybe even a future life saving Oncologist!

You can do this. As you know, I’ve got a Science in the Classroom donations page. Please visit Ms. Wydeven’s project and make a donation. If her needs have already been met, feel free to chose another project from my page and make a donation there.

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