Nathan Casey wasn’t prepared for what he’d see.

But thanks to his bravery and Scout training, he was prepared for what he needed to do.

On June 20, Nathan was in his downstairs bedroom when he heard a loud crash upstairs. He ran up to a scene no young person should have to see: a wall of his home had fallen to the floor.

“It looked like the sky just came into our house,” he says. “Insulation was floating around and still falling by the time I got out of my room.”

When an EF3 tornado hit his home in the suburbs of Chicago, Nathan reacted quickly, helping get his mom and three siblings to safety.

The Life Scout from Troop 684 of Woodridge, Ill. (Pathway to Adventure Council), says his time as a Scout helped prepare him for this unthinkable disaster.

“Scouting helped me to remember to stay calm and do the right thing in this situation,” Nathan says. “I was able to think everything through real fast and get done what was needed.”

Courtesy of Bridget Casey

Helping his family

After the crashing wall that compelled him to run upstairs, the next sound Nathan heard was his 6-year-old brother banging on his bedroom door.

“I realized I needed to do something,” Nathan says.

The tornado had shifted the house so much that his brother’s door was stuck in a closed position. After pushing a few times, the door still wouldn’t budge. Nathan tried ramming his shoulder into the door and eventually forced it open.

Nathan freed his brother and led him downstairs to join his other brother, sister and mom in the bathroom to wait out the rest of the storm.

Next, Nathan grabbed blankets, sleeping pads and the emergency bag he had prepared while earning the Emergency Preparedness merit badge.

The bag contained a first-aid kit, flashlights, warm hoodies and cellphone battery packs.

“I wouldn’t have had all of that gear for emergencies if it wasn’t for Scouts,” Nathan says. “I wouldn’t have had an emergency bag ready to go.”

Nathan, who is 16 and working toward the Eagle Scout Award, says our nation still needs Scouting because it truly prepares young people for a life full of unexpected moments.

“It does prepare you for the real world,” he says. “It teaches you valuable skills, such as what to do in an emergency, knots and lashings for any job that might need it, first aid, and many more useful things that I believe would benefit society.”

Nathan (right) attended the 2019 World Scout Jamboree in West Virginia. (Courtesy of Ed Murray)

A proud mom

Nathan is the oldest of four children. His father died unexpectedly in 2017, so his mom has been raising the kids on her own ever since.

Bridget Casey is Nathan’s mom and a committee member for Troop 684. She’s watched Nathan become a stronger leader thanks to Scouting — a skill on full display during the storm.

“I remember my ears popping, the windows rattling and then feeling the wind around me,” she says.

Everything happened quickly, she said, as she ran through the house to make sure everyone was OK. Nathan’s reassuring demeanor helped everyone else remain calm.

“Scouting prepared Nathan for this with the requirements for making emergency plans and the STOP method that Scoutmaster Ed [Murray] has taught him,” Bridget Casey says.

The STOP method (page 254 of the Scouts BSA Handbook) encourages Scouts to Stop, Think, Observe and Plan during any emergency.

By having a plan before the storm hit, Nathan helped his family escape unharmed. They’re staying with relatives while their community starts to rebuild.

Homes can be replaced; people cannot. By reacting calmly, Nathan ensured his family’s safety.

“The only thing going through my head,” he says, “was that I needed to get everyone safe and accouted for.”

Thanks to Nathan’s Scoutmaster, Ed Murray, for connecting me with Nathan and his family. And thanks to Allison Dietz of the Pathway to Adventure Council for the story tip.

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