Only the beginning

Thousands of families across Alabama and neighboring states are hurting in the wake of the April 27 storms. Their lives -- and the cities, towns and countryside they call home -- will bear the scars of this deadly event for decades.

As survivors go about the heavy task of burying loved ones, taking stock and adjusting to a new reality, we're reminded that, in one sense, natural disasters are no respecters of persons. The more than 200 Alabamians who died include people of all ages, from all sectors of society. The dwellings destroyed range from substandard apartments to luxury vacation homes. Lost businesses likewise span the economic and social spectrum. Thousands of people from different backgrounds share these losses with equal shock and grief.

And yet, the lasting damage will not be equal. Though no lost life can be restored or replaced, some lost homes can, and some lost livelihoods, and some lost daily routines. Others cannot. For many survivors who lack the safety net of insurance or employment, who live from paycheck to paycheck, who face the daily challenges of old age or disability, the storms of April may never go away.

In the days ahead, it will be our collective responsibility, through public and private efforts, to address emergency needs for health care, food, clothing and shelter. We must also uphold a broader responsibility, looking beyond immediate need to long-term policy decisions that protect the most vulnerable Alabamians and give them a hand up as they attempt to rebuild their lives.

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