- - Thursday, March 26, 2020

A tornado hit Merrill, Wisconsin, back in 2011 and did a great deal of damage. In addition to hitting a number of homes in town, the tornado ripped up several small businesses including a place called Northern Wire. The owner took some of the metal that was torn from their building and made it into keychains with the words, “Bent Not Broken” stamped on the side.

As a society, we too feel like we are in the middle of a storm. Worst of all is the unknown.

How much worse will it get?

Are my family and friends safe?

Can we survive if we all have to stay at home?

Then, we face even more unknowns in the future:

Will our jobs still be there?

Will the economy ever come back?

How will we pay our bills?

Could something like this ever happen again?

When the tornado hit Merrill back in 2011, it shut the community down. Local law enforcement closed the area off. Once things were clear, something amazing took place. People came from all over to help the families and businesses who experienced damage from the storm.

It was hard to maneuver through the streets the day I visited because there were so many pickup trucks parked along the way. In addition to family and friends, many of the volunteers who appeared didn’t live there or even know any of the people in town. They just heard about the tornado and the damage left behind and decided to come and help.

Neighbors and volunteers walked through the entire area picking up metal, wood and shingles torn from the homes and businesses in Merrill. Some pieces were found close by while others traveled great distances.

One person told me of how their dog had been sucked away by the storm as their family was running to the basement. Amazingly, the dog was found miles away and brought back to the family.

As I surveyed the town, it was clear that the storm had done some major damage. Many of the residents told me how scared they were for themselves and their families when the tornado blew through their town. They were grateful to be alive after the storm, but then they were afraid of what would become of their homes, their businesses and their community.

The key chain was symbolic for them of the fear they experienced during the tornado for their safety and even their lives. It also reflected the fear they experienced after the storm as they were concerned about the rebuilding of their community. They wondered if life would ever go back to normal. Thankfully, it did. They were bent but not broken.

Finding the key chain when I was looking through a drawer for something else was a great reminder of all the struggles we’ve gone through over the history of our exceptional country. There have been many times when we were bent, but not broken.

During the Revolutionary War, we faced nearly impossible odds. At the time, Great Britain was, as Smithsonian Magazine says, “the greatest world power and owner of the planet’s most threatening navy.” Yet the early patriots won our independence from the British Empire. America was bent but not broken.

One in four soldiers who left home to fight in the Civil War never returned. An estimated 620,000 (about 2 percent of the population at the time) soldiers lost their lives in the line of duty. America was bent but not broken.

The United States entered World War I during the first week of April 1917. It was the “war to end all wars” with a ceasefire coming in 1918. Ironically, an influenza pandemic spread around the world about that time. Over 500 million people became infected with the virus. Total deaths were estimated to around 50 million with some 675,000 in the United States. America was bent but not broken.

The Great Depression began with the Stock Market Crash in the fall of 1929. Unemployment peaked at 25 percent in 1933. Droughts through the heartland and factory closings lead to a major decline in the economy and thousands of homeless. America was bent but now broken.

Surprise attacks on Pearl Harbor drew the United States into World War II. During the war, we faced nearly insurmountable odds at places like Normandy. Still, we achieved victory 75 years ago. America was bent but not broken.

Radical Islamic terrorists took over commercial aircraft that crashed into the North and South Towers of the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and a cornfield in Pennsylvania.The attacks were planned to strike fear in the hearts of U.S. citizens and our allies around the world. America was bent but not broken.

Our nation has been tested many times in our history. With God’s help, however, we will emerge from this current crisis Bent Not Broken!

• Scott Walker was the 45th governor of Wisconsin. You can contact him at swalker@washingtontimes.com or follow him @ScottWalker.

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