Rebecca Vitsmun, the Oklahoma tornado survivor who told CNN's Wolf Blitzer that she is an atheist, is going to be receiving tens of thousands of dollars in donations from the secular community, who decided to support her for speaking out about her non-belief.
"It's important that our community shows that we have your back when you come out publicly as an atheist," the Indiegogo Internet community Atheists Unite stated. "Let's show the world that you don't need to believe in a god to have human compassion nor does all charity fall under the banner of religion. Let's get this courageous woman and her family back in their own home."
Vitsmun managed to escape unharmed with her 19-month-old son on Monday after a tornado ripped through her home in Moore, Okla. A day later, when she was being interviewed on TV by Blitzer and asked if she was "thanking the Lord" for managing to escape on time, the mother said, "I'm actually an atheist." more >>
Why is calamity, the time we most need God's presence in pain, a time we tend to mouth off?
Why, when pain and agony are all around, do we think theological pronouncements are the best response?
Why, when displays of destruction fill the airwaves, are we given to speculate as to the ways and motives of God? more >>
[Updated 10:45 am, May 21: An earlier version said at least 91 people were dead, but an updated report in The New York Times says that spokeswoman for the Oklahoma City medical examiner Amy Elliot's figures that at least 51 people were dead and 40 more bodies were being delivered is "no longer accurate." The confirmed death toll is 24.]
As darkness fell on the tornado-ripped community of Moore, Okla., and the severely damaged areas surrounding Oklahoma City on Monday, at least 24 people, including children, were confirmed dead as the search for survivors continued. Many undamaged and secure structures, such as churches, served as emergency shelters for those whose homes were destroyed as the result of the 200 mph winds. Government-funded disaster relief teams were joined by faith-based organizations, some already mobilized from previous disaster efforts, for immediate action.
A frantic search for students, teachers and staff at the flattened Plaza Towers Elementary in Moore, which was in the storm's direct path, continued into Tuesday morning. Reports indicate that 75 third-graders were believed to have been huddled when the tornado struck, with seven now confirmed dead, a number of students showing up alive at a nearby church, and many still missing. more >>
The Billy Graham Rapid Response Team has been deployed to Granbury, Texas, after a series of tornadoes ripped through hundreds of homes on Wednesday night and left six people dead with more than 100 injured.
"It's always so difficult for survivors to comprehend the tragedy of a tornado, because everything happens so fast," said Jack Munday, international director of the Billy Graham Rapid Response Team, in a statement. "You wake up in the morning with all of your plans before you, and by the time you go to bed at night your entire world has changed and everything you once knew has been destroyed. Please pray for those who lost everything in this series of tornadoes, and especially for the loved ones of the victims."
As tornado season begins in the United States, a major Christian humanitarian organization is providing families with a downloadable guide about disaster preparation.
Operation Blessing International announced Monday that they would be providing a free booklet known as the "7-Day Family Disaster Planning Guide."
"Historically, March marks the beginning of the peak tornado season in the USA. However, due to much colder temperatures than normal this winter, there were only 17 tornadoes in the month of March, the lowest in 35 years," says OBI. more >>
Members of a Jewish advocacy organization founded in 1906 have written a response to an editorial by The New York Times supporting a bill that would provide FEMA aid to houses of worship.
Bobby Lapin, chairman of the American Jewish Committee's legal committee, and Marc D. Stern, general counsel for the AJC, wrote a column published Wednesday regarding the matter.
"Disaster relief is an expression of social solidarity with victims, not a sophisticated method of transferring responsibility for sustaining religious institutions from the collection plate to the tax collector, the core point of separating church and state," wrote Lapin and Stern. more >>