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Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Greetings From Your Town, USA

You see them in airport stores and kitschy roadside attractions.  They are the standby of the hurried traveler: the simple snow dome. Snow domes always amazed me as a child.  I loved the magnified wonder of the little plastic diorama scenes.  Some of the domes would replace the proverbial snow with glitter instead.  Glitter swirling in the air of these magical scenes seemed perfect. 

When I was young we would go on family vacation road trips.  It seemed that virtually everywhere stopped, the little domes were sold to commemorate a town no matter how small or insignificant it seemed. It was as if within the still perfect plastic scene there was a feeling of importance.  This feeling went beyond that bright welcome of the post card rack with it endless paper cascade of florid cards saying “Wish you were here!”

The dome offered more.  It offered the trespassing tourist a glimpse of how a people saw themselves.  The town may be small, the roadside attraction may be kitsch, but to those that lived here this was home and it was beautiful.  As a child, I could not resist the temptation to shake the globe and watch the snow or glitter swirl in tornado’s fury of motion. Yet nothing was destroyed within the magnified dome.  All would settle peacefully, and I would leave the dome upon the store shelf.  

Do you know Angela Lynn?  If you read her LinkedIn profile you might think you just read the resume of a saint or a superhero.  She was a program director for women and children in a domestic violence shelter, she was a coach, a special needs teacher, a pilot, a volunteer liaison for Red Cross disasters and her current job is working for FEMA.

This is Angela’s jacket “Greetings From Your Town, USA.”

"Greetings from Your Town, USA" a jacket for Angela Lynn

In this painting Angela stares at the viewer.  Her face is ageless, beautiful yet-time worn.  She has seen so much.  Angels gets the call and travels anywhere in the United States after a disaster.  She has dealt with the immediate aftermath of floods, tornadoes, hurricanes, fires, pandemics and earthquakes. 

Angela Lynn

She has no idea what the place will look like when she arrives, but she knows it will not be the pristine image seen inside a snow dome.  She will see faces twisted in sorrow and grief, people beaten down by stress.  Some of the people she encounters will be angry and explosive; some will be quiet with a silence inspired by shock.  Some people will pitch in, constantly helping as volunteers. 

The first days and weeks after a disaster are heady, the press descends and many of those who toil are working fueled by pure adrenalin.  But then the weeks pass, and the excitement turns into a depressive state as people realize things will never be the same.  The press leaves, yet homes and dreams are still shattered. 

Angela watches this whole cycle of disaster again and again.  She holds the hands of the elderly and the new mothers.  She goes through forms and explains the system while trying desperately to provide aid.  Sometimes she finds there is no FEMA help available, but she tries to unite those in need with services that can help them. 

And when the time comes to leave, Angela must fly away from a town still reeling.  She is the visitor who only gets to see the dreadful after.  She hopes that those she left will see a better tomorrow. She hopes the picturesque town inside the dome will live again.  She carries back all she sees to her home and family.  She does not take for granted a warm bed, safe food and funds within her bank account.  She does not take for granted the friends she has and life she lives.  She knows too well at anytime this life could shatter.

IN one momment

She knows in a moment the dome could crack and shatter in your town, USA.  Then the phone will ring and Angela will grab her bags.  She will do her best to help those who lost all they had.  She will look into eyes drained of all their sparkle just as assuredly as a little broken dome.


  1. What a touching story, particularly to me this week as the Colorado fires have devastated so many close to where I live. I've been completely engrossed in doing all we can to help the people impacted by the Waldo Canyon fire and this one hit home. Lynn, know that everything anyone does is appreciated and that while you might not get to see it directly, at least here in Colorado, we are strong and the community will rise again. Thanks, Regina, for sharing this one.

    1. In this week of disaster Angela Lynn's jacket story is a timely one. I am so glad there are people like you Kathy and Angela helping others in their time of greatest need.