Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

In Clintonville: I survived the 1.5 March 28, 2012

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The Booms Are Back! Residents of Clintonville Are Reporting Very Loud Noises on Tuesday Night!

So screams the headline scrolling across the Clintonville Chronicle website today as this Wisconsin community northwest of Green Bay experiences yet more unsettling booms following a recent 1.5 magnitude earthquake that rattled residents.

Since my second daughter lives in Appleton about 40 miles to the south, I’ve taken a special interest in Clintonville. Geologists determined that a “swarm” of earthquakes, amplified by Wisconsin’s unique bedrock, caused the shaking and sonic type booms that have awakened and frightened residents in this town of 4,736.

Yes, I would be scared, too, if the earth started rattling and rumbling.

And, just for the record, my daughter has been to the small medical clinic in Clintonville for her job as a Spanish medical interpreter, although not recently.

In perusing the newspaper website, I am happy to see that Clintonville is already embracing the economic opportunities that come with being thrust into the national spotlight. T-shirts emblazoned with “I Survived the 1.5” can be purchased in Clintonville or ordered online. Click here for more information about those shirts.

T-shirt sale profits “will be used to beautify or enhance something in our City as determined by the Mayor at a later date,” promo info reads. “This is not meant to make light of a serious situation but to show that we, as a community, came together to get through the events of this week.”

Let me interject here to applaud the folks of Clintonville. This is one of the attributes I admire in small towns. Togetherness.

I expect that the earthquake marks the biggest news event ever in Clintonville. In a typical week, you’re more likely to read top stories like these from the March 20 Chronicle: “Clintonville Sheep Now Famous,” “Christus to Host Spring Luncheon” and “Sheriffs Seek Evidence of Burglary” rather than “City of Clintonville is Booming.” Click here to access the award-winning Chronicle home page.

All of that booming has also prompted some Clintonville residents to purchase earthquake insurance. (Click here to see a map of  March 19 – 21 quake-related reports from Clintonville.) My daughter mentioned the insurance sales to me yesterday during a noon-time phone conversation, just before she headed out the door to a clinic in New London, some 15 miles south of Clintonville.

WHAT ARE YOUR thoughts on an earthquake in Wisconsin, of all places?

© Copyright 2012 Audrey Kletscher Helbling


Back in Faribault, Minnesota, from Japan March 23, 2011

FIVE DAYS HAD PASSED since a young Faribault woman posted on her blog from earthquake and tsunami stricken Japan.

And now I know why. She was on her way back from Fukushima to Minnesota for her brother’s wedding.

Haidee, a Christian outreach worker and English teacher, has been safely reunited with her family at their rural Faribault home.

But her decision to leave Japan did not come without struggle. Read Haidee’s insightful post by clicking here. She reveals, in a March 22 post, the emotional turmoil she experienced, being torn between wanting to stay in Japan and returning to the United States.

Her words are honest, poignant and touching. They also point to an unshakable faith and an undisputed belief that God directed her onto the path that would take her to the airport and then back to Minnesota.

God, clearly, was watching over and guiding her on this journey.

A snippet of Jesus' face in a stained glass window at Trinity Lutheran Church in Faribault, where Haidee's father serves as the pastor. I'm certain that many times since the disaster in the Pacific, Haidee has been especially cognizant of God watching over her.

SHOULD I HAVE the opportunity to speak with Haidee, I’ll share that information with you. Click here to read my first post about Haidee, shortly after the disaster devastated Japan.


© Copyright 2011 Audrey Kletscher Helbling


A Minnesotan, safe in Japan, for now March 12, 2011

EVER SINCE I HEARD yesterday of the earthquake and tsunami in Japan, I’ve prayed for the people of Japan and specifically for a young Minnesota woman living there.

I’ve known Haidee, a Christian outreach worker and English teacher there, since she was born in 1986. She grew up with my oldest daughter, came to my house for birthday parties. She’s the second eldest of my pastor’s children—strong, confident and on fire for the Lord.

So this morning, rather than call her parents lest they give me bad news, I phoned a friend to inquire about Haidee. Thankfully, in answer to my ongoing prayers, my friend shared that, for now, Haidee and her roommate are safe.

You can read about Haidee’s experience by clicking here.

Unfortunately, this native Minnesotan’s home of Fukushima, Japan, is also the site of a nuclear plant. An online news report I just read states that tens of thousands are being evacuated from the area because of the threat of a nuclear meltdown.

I cannot imagine living with such possibilities. But if anyone can remain strong through this epic disaster, it is Haidee with her unshakable faith.

She has managed to maintain her sense of humor. Haidee ends her Friday, March 11, 9:34 p.m. blog post with this: “And now I’m signing out…because we’re going to go walk around and look for bathrooms. People survived walking to outhouses for years, right? :)”

Photos of my 1970s Japanese pen pal, Etsuko Tamura, pasted in a photo album.

IN ADDITION TO HAIDEE, I’ve worried about Etsuko Tamura, whom I honestly have not thought about in decades.

Yesterday after I heard the news about the Japanese disaster, her name popped into my head just like that. She was my pen pal during the 1970s, when writing to someone overseas was a popular hobby for young girls. We stopped corresponding 35 – 40 years ago.

Through her letters, Etsuko showed me the world beyond rural southwestern Minnesota.

Now I am seeing her devastated world through the lens of a news camera and online from citizen-shot videos. And I wonder, all these decades later, whether she’s OK.

© Copyright 2011 Audrey Kletscher Helbling