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A call to action for Wadena

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For Wadena to begin to put the pieces together months after the 170 mile per hour winds of an EF4 tornado devastated our community, we only need decent people to do the decent thing in St. Paul on Monday.

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A special session was tentatively scheduled for Monday in St. Paul, as legislators are recalled from their districts to respond to a natural disaster: flooding in southern Minnesota. We had a horrific disaster of our own here in Wadena, but it has started to fade from regional attention since June 17. If they only knew how our neighborhoods still look, how our beloved institutional buildings still sit as sad stacks of bricks in ruin, ugly reminders of an unfathomable "war zone" day, they wouldn't have forgotten us, but it's human nature that attentions are called elsewhere.

This is a bad time for Wadena to be reminding legislators and Gov. Pawlenty's office of our needs. Legislators are trying to do a necessary part of their jobs: speaking to their constituents as elections approach. Gov. Pawlenty and legislative leaders also have a very appropriate priority of keeping this special session neat, clean and quick -- not only in the name of efficiency but effectiveness and fiscal austerity.

All of those are good points, and hard to argue with. Except for one thing: we desperately need their help, and we need it now. We actually needed it months ago, but piggy-backing on a similar natural disaster that somehow got special session treatment when ours didn't presented the only opportunity we've been afforded. It may not be neat, clean or quick, but it's terribly necessary. The aid Wadena is requesting to be considered in the special session would go a long way to helping things fall into place in rebuilding our community, our lives.

Isn't this a great time for our legislators and our governor to do one more urgently necessary thing? The right thing? The Christian thing? Isn't this a great opportunity to show that government isn't just a bumbling collection of faceless bureaucrats, but a conscientious group of people who got into this game in the first place to do the right thing? To change the world? To cut through red tape, cut to the chase, and cut a check for a small amount in the scope of the pile of money they control? A small sliver of what they have at their disposal would mean the world to the Wadena community, whose world was shattered June 17, and whose world has been suspended in that nightmarish moment for the last four months?

Could Wadena wait for three or four more months to get some aid? No, if the potential benefits of collaborating with construction of the new high school are to realized. Or maybe, if you believe the people who have suffered for four months already should be forced to stare four more at the rubble sculptures that remind them of a terrible day outsiders will never fully understand. We implore everyone who doesn't understand our urgent and overdue need to start putting pieces back into place to visit our community and see what we're still looking at -- after four months -- with winter closing in. Despair is hard enough to look at. Snow-covered despair makes one's soul hurt.

Gov. Pawlenty has seen this disaster up close -- twice. He knew in his heart he was needed here right after the tornado hit, and his visits meant a lot. This, too, would mean a lot.

So now we ask that every legislator, every political aide, everyone who reports to work at the Capitol or the governor's office to remember why you chose that calling in the first place. Was it to run negative ads, or make fundraising calls, or drive the back roads of your district to knock doors? That may be what it has become, but the reason you chose that calling, that position of leadership, was to make a difference and shape the world for people who need help. Please visit our website at www.wadenapj.com and look at the tornado section. Here is a place in need of someone who will help, who will make a difference. We need you to be that idealistic kid who dreamed of helping others -- if only for a few moments on Monday, Oct. 11.

The proposal is simple, clean and quick. We need $24.5 million for a community and regional wellness center, including a hockey arena, wellness equipment, pool, meeting area and other amenities to replace one of the buildings we lost. The state has 10 times that amount, just sitting there, left over in a surplus at the end of the budget period. The state is ready to spend a third of that surplus on the yet-to-be-defined losses in the very recent flooding in southern Minnesota. Is it out of line to ask for just a tenth of that same pot of money, which would help Wadena put a keystone of the rebuilding process in place? Many of our community's other needs would quickly fall into place with local funds after this one-time aid is granted.

Wadena is a little, proud town many people hadn't heard of until our tragedy this summer. But we need to rise up and be heard from in the next 48 hours, or we will almost certainly be passed over and swept under the carpet. What we don't need is anger or yelling, threats about re-election or partisan accusations. We don't need to stomp our feet to remind our governor and our legislators to do the right thing, we just need to speak softly and carry a big reminder of what we've been through.

It's not often this newspaper is so blatant in a call for action, but today we must. Please call your legislator this weekend -- whether they're local or, better yet, from a different part of the state where they have no idea what happened here. A phone call is always the best way. And be polite, respectful, yet firm. Talk about how the tornado affected you, and how a new community/wellness center here could help rebuild some lives. Be real, be genuine, and be courteous. Vitriol won't help, but sincerity will.

If you're unwilling to make that phone call, post something on Facebook or Twitter about our urgent need, and ask your friends and followers to do the same. We must cast a wide net, and quickly. Tweet and retweet. If you can't think of anything to say, e-mail a link of this editorial to your state representative or state senator. Write "Help Wadena" on your car windows. Text someone. Tell a stranger about us.

Let's repeat: for Wadena to pull itself out of despair and start to pull ourselves up by our own bootstraps, we don't need a miracle. We only need decent people in St. Paul to do the decent thing: allot one-tenth of the available funds as seed money to help a community that's been knocked on its butt by Mother Nature to get back to its feet.

We need everyone's help. We need it now. We need it from Y-O-U. Not later today, not next week. Now. Right now.

The Pioneer Journal editorial represents the voice of the newspaper's editorial board. Today's editorial was written by Steve Schulz, editor and publisher.

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