Monday, May 2, 2011

Mixed Emotions

Wow.  What a week, right?  I have rarely found myself off my knees, with a dry eye, not praying for safety, for healing, for swift delivery of food and supplies and medical support to those needing these things in the wake of the tornadoes.  I watched the tragedy of 9/11 happen as a student in college, gathered with fellow students and friends around a tv in a crammed apartment in disbelief.  I watched Katrina flood the coast of New Orleans in my home, horrified as strangers were swept off rooftops.

And this week, I watched and wept, as this tragedy hit home.  I am thanking God I did not lose anyone dear to me, but I know people affected by this, I imagine there are few who don't, being from Alabama.  This is personal, it hit home.  150 tornados in Alabama in one day.  250 people dead in Alabama in one day, 314 overall.  I am still having a hard time coming to terms with this.   

So with the tragedy and healing to come from the tornados, this weekend I just can't think of describing as any other way but filled with mixed emotions.  I went home.  I needed me some Alabama, and to love on my family. 

Another silver lining to the weekend was this beautiful bride, Lucy, and her gorgeous wedding. 

I had the three most beautiful dates at the wedding, and the one on the left is a pretty good dancing partner too!
My sister definitely is cooler than yours.  Just sayin.

Which leads me to this.  (My sister, that is.)  My sister has a best friend Leah, from high school.  (So do I, don't get them confused.)  She lives in Ohatchee, which is the same county we live in, but on the Northwest end.  One of the tornados basically leveled Ohatchee, and Leah's home, barn, land, everything.  (Ironically, my Leah has family members too I am praying deeply for from Eclectic who's home, barn, EVERYTHING was also leveled by another tornado.  Physically, they are all ok.). 

By the end of the week, we had collected as much as our SUV's could hold for (Jessie's) Leah, her husband, and new baby girl.  Who are now homeless.  Dear friends like Rich here donated boxes and boxes of clothes to them, total strangers, who as of Thursday had nothing but the clothes on their back.

There is more being mailed to my parent's house.  I have been brought to my knees by the force of which people have been called to help a total stranger.  It is overwhelming.  I'll repeat what I told a friend Margarita (yes, she's sassy like her name.  You should chase her with salt and a lime) who is sending things all the way from Louisiana....My heart is so heavy with the burden of lives lost and the healing that must take place now.  But at the same time, it is so full as I watch our neighbors and friends become like family, and support each other.  Honestly, I'd expect nothing less.

As Jessie and I drove to Ohatchee to Leah's to give her what we'd collected so far, things got ominous immediately.

Volunteer units were in every vacant parking lot passing out clothes, water, food, and I would imagine in some cases, just a friendly comforting smile.
As we crossed the lake, it looked like nothing short of a warzone.  Pontoon boats and trailers were mangled and twisted and tossed up on the shoreline.  Trash and wood and insulation littered the lake's surface.

We arrived at Leah's mother-in-law's and sorted through boxes.  Leah and her daughter Adalyn were so grateful for the clothes, and it looks like everything fit just right!  I cannot imagine what it feels like every time she picks this baby up now, counting every moment she looks her child in the eyes as a priceless one.
Leah was without power since Wednesday morning, when the first round of storms came through, and roughed it all day just fine.  Her husband Chuck was coming in late than night from a business trip.  But by nighttime, she had had enough and decided since it was worstening, she and the baby would go to her mother-in-laws and wait it out.  So with the clothes on their backs, they left their home for the last time.
The next morning, they began to drive through pitch black darkness still toward their home.  They knew the storm had been bad, they knew a tornado had hit the area.  They needed to see if they received any damage.

Their driveway is a mile long.  And halfway down, there are too many trees down to dodge with the car.  So they climb the rest of the way.  With flashlights in their hands, one step at a time, they climb their way down their drive way looking for their home.

As they reached the end of the drive, the sun rose.  At the top of the hill, the sun always rises over their log cabin designed home, sitting on the hillside.  Last Thursday morning, Leah said she watched the sun rise over nothing.  She called her mother, and told her "Mama, I own nothing but the clothes on my back."

In the picture above, as I stand in her driveway, you can see Leah and Jessie walking around on the slab of her home.  Leah is giving my sister the tour she never got, showing her where each room was.

Below is where Chuck had a workshop where he worked on his tractors and old cars.  That green John Deer is mangled to pieces, but was under the workshop.  That blue truck rolled on in from somewhere else, smashed to smithereens.  The workshop was completely blown away, as you can see.  Not a piece of it left.

Ok, I found some of the framework of the workshop.  This is a maybe 300 feet down the driveway, on the other side of the road.  A little bent up.

Behind their home was their barn, with a couple old tractors in it.  As you can see, the twister chose to suck up the barn and spit out the wood as it left piece by piece.  Besides beating them up, it left the tractors.  Though two of the horses' saddles were found near the house.  (And their 2 horses have been located and moved temporarily)
As I walked around the slab of their home, it's like a trash heap.  Pipes ripped from the ground.  Insulation sprayed everywhere they'll be coughing up for weeks.  The hardwood floors are gone!

Very few things we found, and those that were, weren't salvagable because of the dirt and insulation coating them.  But many were still precious in their own rights.
This family like so many others, will come back stronger, through this trial.  What I saw this weekend was awesome in its power, humbling in its destruction.  But what I know more than that is my God is a merciful God, and though I am tempted (now more than ever) to ask, to yell even, if I'm being honest, WHY??!!  I cannot.  I won't try to reason why God allowed those tornados to happen, any more than I would reason why he could've stopped them.  One day I will get my answers, but for the meantime, I will count my blessings.  I have already seen miracles happen this week.  I don't need my answers now, I have my faith.

Because I know that, literally, we can weather this storm.


  1. Way to go Jenn! The world is so lucky to have people like you. Dad's new property was in Ohatchee, so he has filled me on the devastation around there. He said your eyes won't believe it. Praying for your friend.

  2. Great photos and recap of her heart breaks for their sweet family. It is true, all the photographs and video footage in the world, from every angle imagineable can not prepare you for what you see when you arrive at these places. I've never seen anything like it in my lifetime. And even still today, a month later, the rubble in Tuscaloosa is sombering.