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natural disaster

If there was a story that encapsulates the tragedy and beauty that humanity is experiencing right now, this one is it.

Less than a week ago, Alyssa Burks shared a photo of her physician husband Jared touching hands with their toddler through a glass door. Dr. Burks had been isolated from his family for two weeks to keep the safe from possible exposure as he treats patients who have become infected with the coronavirus. The heart-wrenching image captured the sacrifice our healthcare workers and their families are making to save lives and keep one another safe and healthy.

The photo went viral with more than 88,000 shares, and people praised Dr. Burks and his colleagues for their work on the front lines of this pandemic.

Three a few days later, a tornado ripped through the Burks' hometown of Jonesboro, Arkansas, and their home was completely destroyed. Unbelievable.

Adding the stress of losing your home in a sudden natural disaster to the challenges a doctor's family already faces with this pandemic is just too much.

This is where the generosity of strangers comes in, reminding us that even in the darkest times the light of human kindness continues to shine.

Alyssa Burks' friend Evan Clower set up a GoFundMe for the Burks family, writing:

"After the Coronavirus and having to be separated for weeks due to his residency, a tornado hit the Burks family home and destroyed it. They are going to need help picking up the pieces so that they can find another place to live, collect their items, rebuild, all while Jared is working and fighting for those who health may be compromised."

Clower set the goal for $2,500. Two days later, more than $113,000 has been raised, largely by strangers who found out about the tragedy from the news.

"I don't know this family but the story touched me very personally," wrote one donor. "In 1967, my family had our home destroyed by a tornado. I am donating with that memory in mind, in hopes that they can rebuild their lives soon and also in thanks for all their family is sacrificing during this time."

"The picture and story of Jared/his son just touched my heart," wrote another. "Not only is Jared putting himself at risk every day treating patients at the hospital, but to lose his home to the tornado is simply unfathomable. I felt it was my duty and an honor to donate to the Burke's Go Fund Me. God Bless You."

Donations have flooded in from around the world, with nearly 3,000 people donating. What a beautiful outpouring of support for one of our medical soldiers and his family at a time when many are struggling financially themselves.

Times are tough and people are amazing. Let's keep remembering that as we make our way through this pandemic together.


She was moments from being swept away by a flood, when 3 strangers stepped in.

Our weather may be getting stronger, but that doesn't mean we're getting weaker.

Over the weekend, Maryland was hit by a historically epic flood. Ellicott City saw over six inches of rain in under two hours.

The flash floods tore into buildings and turned the city's streets into rivers, putting anyone stuck in a car in a dire situation.

Jamie Knight was one such driver, who was pulled from her car by a few brave locals acting quickly to form a human chain.

Jason Barnes, a local toy store owner, had just lost all his merchandise in the flood when he decided to risk his own life for a complete stranger. Barnes' stepfather, Chris Penning, told WBAL-TV that owning a toy store had been his stepson's dream 10 years in the making, second only to writing comics about superheroes.

In the face of all his efforts being washed away, however, Barnes became a real-life superhero. He didn't think twice as he plunged into the raging flood waters to save Knight, who had gotten locked in her car as it was being carried away.

Barnes heading out into the flood waters. GIFs via Ark News/YouTube.

The whole ordeal was caught on camera, and the resulting video is pretty incredible. At one point during the rescue, Barnes lost his footing and almost got swept away in the raging floodwaters.

Thanks to teamwork and gumption, the two other men anchoring him to the building got him back on his feet and the trio managed to get Knight out through her car window and onto slightly dryer land.

It's inspiring to see people banding together to save a life, especially in the face of a natural disaster so extreme it only happens once in 1,000 years.

There really are heroes everywhere. And while this incredible rescue is worth celebrating, it's important to remember these dangerous weather situations are happening more and more often as a result of our changing climate.

Photo by Matt Cardy/Getty Images.

As such, it's time we use this heroic nature so many of us possess, pool our collective efforts, and pull our planet back from the proverbial precipice.

If these three men were strong enough to save one life from flood-force currents, then surely the rest of us banding together have enough power to turn things around on a global scale too.

Watch the entire awesome rescue below:

This ghostly statue marks the site of a often overlooked, but devastating natural disaster — one that is sadly still ongoing.

Photo by Ulet Ifansasti/Getty Images.

In 2006, steaming hot mud erupted, without warning, from a rice paddy in eastern Java, Indonesia, sweeping through a dozen nearby villages.

Photo by Ulet Ifansasti/Getty Images.

20 people were killed, and thousands more were forced to flee their homes permanently.

Footprints in a house overwhelmed by the mud flow. Photo by Ulet Ifansasti/Getty Images.

The statues were erected by sculptor Dadang Christanto in 2014 to commemorate the eighth anniversary of the tragedy.

Photo by Ulet Ifansasti/Getty Images.

Since they were installed, the sculptures have have been sinking slowly — by design.

"They were not in mud when they started," Christanto told Australia's Saturday Paper in 2015. "And in one year they are nearly submerged. They will disappear. It is not just the environmental disaster but the social disaster."

May 30, 2016, marked the 10th anniversary of the beginning of the deadly mud flow.

Photo by Ulet Ifansasti/Getty Images.

While there have been no more fatalities, mud continues to pour out of the volcano to this day.

There's also strong evidence that the disaster was manmade.

Activists stage a protest on the fifth anniversary of the disaster. Photo by Ulet Ifansasti/Getty Images.

A 2015 report published in Nature argues that the gas needed to trigger the eruption could only have been unearthed by a nearby oil and gas drilling operation.

"We're now 99 percent confident that the drilling hypothesis is valid," Mark Tingay, the paper's lead author, told The New York Times.

(Other experts continue to disagree, arguing that the mud flow could have been caused by an earthquake.)

Like the Deepwater Horizon spill, this eruption demonstrates how lack of attention to the potential side effects of drilling can have disastrous consequences.

The nearly 40,000 Java residents who were forced to flee their homes have endured an often painful resettlement process. Many initially took shelter wherever they could find it — often in local markets.

"We couldn't shower, we couldn't wash our clothes," Sadli, a factory worker who was displaced by the mud flow, told the Chicago Tribune. "For every toilet, there were dozens of people constantly in line."

Some victims were eventually compensated. Others are still waiting.

When Lapindo, the company in charge of the drill operation allegedly responsible for the eruption, proposed installing two new wells near the site of the disaster, protests erupted and shut down the project.

Photo by Ulet Ifansasti/Getty Images.

That isn't to say we should stop drilling for oil and gas altogether.

Icky as oil can be, we need it for the time being, and natural gas can be an alternative to far dirtier sources of power.

But the statues serve as a kind of warning: When we mess with nature without taking the proper precautions, we don't just put our environment at risk.

An artist paints at the site of the sinking statues. Photo by Ulet Ifansasti/Getty Images.

We put ourselves at risk too.

The 2011 nuclear disaster in Fukushima, Japan, forced over 150,000 people to evacuate their homes.

Five years later, many people are still unable to return due to dangerously high radiation levels in the area.

In the coastal areas affected by the tsunami, the devastation was obvious and profound.

In some places in the nuclear exclusion zone, however, many homes and businesses remain standing, heartbreaking reminders of the lives people left behind when they fled.

1. Despite the devastation, some sets of power lines are still standing, along with many buildings.

Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images.

2. An abandoned street in Namie, Japan.

Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images.

3. Another street corner. The vending machines are still stocked.

Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images.

4. A coffee shop with a van parked in front.

Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images.

5. A car, still in good condition, buried under plant growth.

Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images.

6. An empty school hallway. The bulletin board still has posters hanging on it.

Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images.

7. Roadside businesses. The stalls are still standing, but the merchandise is gone.

Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images.

8. A house with its satellite dish still set up.

Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images.

9. The outside of a local store with its vending machines also still stocked.

Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images.

10. A child's bike, partially buried.

Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images.

11. A deserted home, moderately damaged. Its surroundings have been leveled.

Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images.

12. A child's swing, still standing in a park.

Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images.

13. A big stuffed animal, a tray full of dishes, a laundry basket, and other hastily abandoned items.

Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images.

14. Laundry left hanging on a line.

Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images.

15. A window with five years of plant growth both inside and out.

Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images.

16. Trucks in a parking lot. Shrubbery has completely claimed the bed of the one on the far left.

Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images.

17. A pile of irradiated wood cleared by workers in Okuna, Japan.

Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images.

18. Toys and masks inside the window of a home.

Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images.

19. A sign advertising pachinko at a nearby business.

Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images.

20. A Hello Kitty doll, a chair, and a piano inside an abandoned home.

Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images.

21. A house with its garage left open.

Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images.

22. Another house whose air conditioning unit has fallen out of the window.

Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images.

23. A stopped clock.

Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images.

24. A home in the middle of a field. You can still see the solar panels on top.

Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images.

25. A statue in graveyard.

Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images.

26. A car in an overgrown downtown parking lot.

Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images.

27. A rearview mirror, still attached to a buried car.

Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images.

28. More personal items. Some cups and decorative pots.

Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images.

29. A radiation monitoring station in the front yard of a house on the highway.

Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images.

30. A large garage.

Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images.

31. A tiny figurine left hanging inside a home.

Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images.

People fleeing crises like these — natural disasters or otherwise — deserve our support, whether or not they have homes to go back to.

Even though a time may come when the area is once again relatively safe, for many former residents of the exclusion zone, the memory of the tragedy makes going back seem unimaginable. It's the same impossible choice faced by refugees and evacuees around the world fleeing from their war-torn home countries: risk returning to a dangerous, possibly deadly place or confront an unfamiliar and potentially unwelcoming new community.

No one wants to be forced to leave their entire life behind. For millions of people around the world, however, it's unavoidable.

For those of us who live in relative safety, we should help those who can't go home again build new lives among us.