There’s a bit of guilt that comes along with escaping any harm or damage from a random natural disaster like the killer tornado that ripped through here 12 days ago. Guilt? I’m not sure how else to describe it. It’s not like I’m wishing that our home had been reduced to mere rubble or thinking I should have died in the place of one of the 41 people who did, but more like an aching sense that something is not fair about it all.
Why do innocent and sweet babies die? Why should young and beautiful students experience such horror or even die such terrifying deaths? Why are those who already live in the projects struggling just to get by forced to deal with the most destruction and left with absolutely nowhere to call home? Why are the most historic of neighborhoods able to disappear from the map in less than a minute?
I have no answers, of course, but that doesn’t stop me from fretting over the questions. My stomach and my heart are still in knots. It’s almost more than I can bear to watch. I know it has been said a thousand times, but really, the pictures don’t do it justice. To see the destruction with your own eyes is surreal. It’s impossible to describe. So I won’t try.
There are two specific moments, though, that stand out for me in all that has transpired since that day. The night of the tornado, I had a really tough time getting home. It’s a crazy story that I do want to tell at some point, but for now, let’s just say I was terrified. So there I was trying to get home, and I ended up on this road that I soon realized was impassable. There were literally hundreds of people walking in one direction – all with these dazed and twisted looks on their faces - some in pajamas, some in nothing but pants, some with shoes, some without. Some had children and pets following along with them. I don’t know why but my car windows were down, so the screaming and crying was really loud. One large woman in a tight knit yellow dress looked at me and yelled, “You can’t go down there! People are dead down there! DEAD! People are dead!” Then she kept on walking, barefoot and waving her hands in the air. I wanted to vomit. The next day I figured out I had been just up the street from Rosedale Court – the housing project where many lives were lost and almost every home was completely destroyed. Again, I wanted to vomit.
Two days later, PJ and I took supplies to Rosedale Baptist Church. A row of old houses next to the church also had major damage. Many of the houses were left as just walls with no roof and no belongings, many were just piles of wood and brick. One house had its top level sliding off the front of it as if it had been sliced with a knife that stopped just short of finishing the job. There was no roof on this house, no front door, no windows. You could see the attic of the house because it was now dangling above the porch. In the attic was a Christmas tree, complete with fake snow on the branches. Beside the front porch in a lawn chair sat an elderly woman with bandages on her arms. She was just sitting there watching people come and go. This was her home, and I could tell by the look in her eyes that she was not leaving. She was there to protect what was left – even if all that was left was a cheap artificial tree and a rickety old lawn chair.
I haven’t cried yet. I’m afraid if I start, I may never stop.
The worst part for PJ and me right now is feeling like we want to help, but not ever feeling like what we do is enough. So we do what we can and we pray. How can you help? Please pray for these people. Please consider giving to the Mid-Alabama region of The American Red Cross to help.
And right now - please tell those people that you love how you feel. I believe more than ever that we are not guaranteed a tomorrow. I will never be the same as a result of this. And I think the sweetest way to honor those who lost their lives that night is to learn to live like we are dying.
Love deeper, speak sweeter…