A little over a week ago on Saturday night we had some bad weather. Winds all day long were strong and gusty with warnings of gusts up to 80 mph. That evening we put the kids to bed and were watching the weather on the news and there were tornado warnings up and down the state. But they were all north and west of us, so we popped in a movie and relaxed. It was a great night to tuck in and watch a movie, stormy and rainy outside, cozy and comfortable inside.
About 20 minutes before the movie was over the power went out. We were so annoyed! How dare the power go out just at the climax of the story! So we fumbled around for candles and flashlights and hung out in the dark for a couple of hours.
When the power came back, I hopped on facebook and saw posts from friends who live here talking about hiding out in the bathrooms, tornados going past their houses, and all sorts of stuff!
After googling Jacksonville tornado, several articles came up about a tornado that ripped through some base housing and through 3 other nearby neighborhoods. Initial reports estimated 5 houses destroyed and another 10-15 damaged.
In the morning light, the realization was that the damage was much, much worse. There are over 50 families displaced from their homes on base, not to mention the damage that was done in the other neighborhoods.
It turns out the this tornado came down the river and landed just about a mile from where we live. This is a little of what we saw on the way to church Sunday morning.
Our meetings at church that day were spent organizing working crews to help several of the families from our congregation and their neighbors. Clean-up has been going on every day this past week.
It wasn't until Friday that I actually was able to go see some of the damage for myself.
Seeing the pictures online and in the newspaper just aren't the same as witnessing it first hand. It was all a little surreal.
My initial reaction as I drove down the main road and saw some of the damage was, well, it was just heartbreaking. And this wasn't even the worst of it.
Mr. LouWho had spent all of Sunday and Wednesday after work with the clean up effort. I've felt pretty useless since my kids are so young, I couldn't really take them with me. A group from church was meeting on Saturday morning to go volunteer and he had planned on going again. I was thinking I could get some things done around the house and maybe a little sewing while he was gone.
Then he suggested I go and he stay home with the kids. I was a little annoyed because as much as I wanted to help I felt like I had so much to do to get ready for Easter. But then I figured it would be good to go and help out, the sewing could wait. And hey! A morning off from
What I had seen up to this point was nothing compared to seeing the spot where two houses once stood.
A friend commented to me as we found small toys, broken dishes, etc in the dirt that she was feeling very connected to this family thinking they probably had kids the same age, and what might they need, how could she help. Her sweet children were finding loose change and salvageable items and leaving them in their mailbox.
So many trees just had their uppers halves wrenched off by the storm.
It's hard to look at the damage and not feel grateful for our safety.
It's hard to imagine how these people have lost everything and not feel grateful for the things we take for granted.
It's hard to comprehend the sense of loss they must feel and not be humbled.
It's hard to think of all the work that will go into rebuilding and not feel completely lame for some of the things I have been complaining about.
I love how people come together after tradgedies like this. The reality is that we all sense that something within us that moves us to want to help with these big catastrophes: hurricanes, tsunamis, earthquakes, etc.
The little that I was able to do on Saturday was compounded by the fact that SO many others were out there doing the little that they could. The thought kept going through my head, many hands make light work. We spent most of the day clearing yards and making piles like this along the curbs.
And that sweet boy taking a rest hauled wheelbarrow after wheelbarrow from the back of the house to the front and never stopped until we were done.
The truth of the matter is, we can all help. every day. We don't need to wait for a natural disaster to be able to do something. There is always someone in need. We just have to reach out to our neighbors and friends. No matter our religion, politcal viewpoints, or social status we are spiritually (and morally) obligated to help each other. And if we do this we can make a huge difference. Every single one of us.
This was a great lesson to be reminded of. And very appropriate for this Easter weekend. I believe in following the example of Jesus Christ. Now I just need to do it more often. I hope you will too.