Driver shows its support

Published 11:12 pm Wednesday, June 15, 2011

One of the hardest things for most of us as we face various tragedies in our lives is the conviction that nobody can understand the special pain that we are feeling.

Whether at the death of a loved one or following the loss of a home to fire or other disaster, the impression that nobody has ever felt quite this way must be almost universal among people. Only when we have been removed from the situation by the passage of time do we usually come to realize that the broad emotions are ones shared by everyone, even if their particular shades are more personal.

A little more than three years after a tornado shredded its way through parts of Suffolk, flattening an entire neighborhood and destroying much of another — and in the process uprooting the lives of countless Suffolk residents — some of those who were most directly affected by that storm recently found themselves experiencing empathy for the people of Gloucester, who suffered their own deadly tornado on April 16.

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No, the emotions were not exactly the same, because the experiences that created them were slightly different. Miraculously, Suffolk had experienced no loss of life in its tornado. Gloucester, on the other hand, was left to mourn the death of two residents during the recent storm. While many homes were destroyed in Suffolk, Gloucester also lost a school and significant numbers of buses and other county property, which taxpayers will have to sacrifice in order to replace, even with help from the insurance companies.

Still, though, if there is anyone in Southeast Virginia who understands the upside-down feeling that must have beset the fine people of Gloucester, it is the people in Suffolk who survived the 2008 tornado and then set about rebuilding their lives.

One group of those people — in Driver, one of the two hardest-hit communities in the Suffolk storm — has set out to see what it can do to help fellow Virginians on the Middle Peninsula begin to put their lives together.

The cornhole fundraising tournaments these folks have put together are more than just an opportunity to have a little fun, more even than a chance to help raise money for a worthy cause. Even more importantly, these weekly tournaments provide a way for a few people in Suffolk to show their solidarity with the folks in Gloucester.

The events give participants a chance to say, “We’ve been there. We may not understand precisely what you’re going through, but we’ve been close enough to it that we have a pretty good idea. And we care.” Even spoken through the actions of a fundraising cornhole tournament, those are powerful words of support.