On March 1, 2007, at 1:13 p.m. an EF4 tornado with winds of 170 mph hit the “third hall” of the city’s only high school and damaged the neighboring elementary school. The students, faculty and administration had been in the hallways, lining the walls as they had been trained to do. When the tornado hit the high school, the concrete walls of third hall imploded and left students bravely trying to hold back the beams to spare the lives of their classmates. However, the walls came tumbling down, trapping them. Teachers covered their students, trying to protect them from the flying debris as the rocks and other roofing material pummelled them. The sights, sounds, smells, and the metallic taste of fear were permanently etched into the victims’ minds. After 1 o’clock the next morning, all students and faculty were located. The deadly tornado had taken the lives of eight high school students and an elderly woman.
Thankfully, all lives at the elementary school had been spared, but the city’s inhabitants would never be the same. In addition to the physical destruction, the thoughts and feelings of the survivors suffered injuries unseen but deeply felt. As dawn broke the next morning on a sunny day, the long process of healing and rebuilding began. Mrs. Carey, the Director of Federal Programs, met with all of the schools’ counselors and Mrs. Dean to prepare for emergency services of counseling and emotional support for the students and their families. As a result of this natural disaster, Mrs. Dean compiled the lessons learned as well as the counseling techniques used by the school counselors and her experience working with the students, faculty, and administration for the next 10 years.
The information provided in her book, Day of Destruction, speaks to school and mental health counselors, parents, and school personnel coping with loss in the form of a natural disaster, terminal illness, accidents, shootings (especially in schools), and death of a close friend, classmate or family member.
The format of the book is divided into two parts: the Eye of the Tornado and the Aftermath. Part one gives the personal accounts of the superintendent, the principal and an assistant principal of the high school, the guidance secretary who lost her mother, a student who lost her brother, and the school nurse whose presence was crucial in both the identification of the deceased and triage and urgent care of the injured. Finally, the experiences of the elementary counselor whose daughter attended the same school and the author’s experience are both told. Part two has four case studies of typical students’ responses to a natural disaster: school avoidance, increase in perfectionism, anger/behavioral issues and survivor’s guilt and denial. The final chapter offers additional coping skills and the importance of faith in the healing process.
About The Author
A former teacher and professor, Carol T Dean is familiar with the developmental goals and needs of students of various ages as well as those of adults. She was a Licensed Professional Counselor in private practice in addition to her 20 years as a counselor for the Enterprise City School System. Mrs. Dean was active in numerous professional organizations, having most recently served as state president of the Alabama Mental Health Counselors Association and on the Board of the Alabama Play Therapy Association.
She has presented at the state level on the following topics: Helping Children Cope with Grief and Loss, The Co-Parenting Program developed by Mrs. Dean and her colleague and mentor, Ray Little, LPC, LMHC, and presented through the Judicial Court System in her area for parents divorcing and those with child custody issues to help their children with both short-term and long-term problems dealing with divorce.
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