Last week saw a disaster in my home state that one Facebook poster called "a disaster of Old Testament proportions." Friends are blogging about their experiences worrying about family members in harm's way. I think I'll start this blog with my comment on one such blog:
"I was sitting at home watching the Weather Channel thinking about my child just as you were thinking about your sister. Erin did get a call in to me as they evacuated the airport in Birmingham where she was waiting to take off. I could hear the fear in her voice as men yelled in the background to get down. Our connection ended. The reporter being interviewed on the Weather Channel was in Birmingham. The tornado appeared over his shoulder just as he was showing the audience the "trash" that was raining down from the sky...debris from the tornado in Tuscaloosa. It was a very large piece of glass and a piece of a cinder block. I watched the tornado hit Birmingham. No calls got through to Erin. The announcer on the Weather Channel said, "There goes the airport." How did I feel? Numb. What was going through my mind? Dear, God, no. Not my baby. Not Erin. No. No. No. He's wrong. That didn't hit the airport. I had heard the fear in her voice and couldn't get to her. Couldn't hold her. Her last words before she hung up? "Love you, Mom." Mine to her? "Me you, too." Just like every conversation. My sister was hit with a tornado in Cordova that morning and another that afternoon. One of her friends lost a child. Teresa's, Donna's roommate, niece whom Teresa has adopted lost a classmate. Another six-year-old died. Total of eight in that very, very small town. It would be like eight people in Lowery dying. It's that small. I couldn't get a call through to Donna, just voice mail. When the second one hit I knew that since they didn't have power that they didn't have sirens. Thankfully, she had her weather radio. They never heard it coming. Two kids that were killed were skateboarding in the parking lot of what had been that morning the town's only grocery store. There was no reason they shouldn't be outside. The sky was partly cloudy. No wind. No warning. Cordova was the only town in all states hit that day that was effectively wiped out twice. Deaths both times. Even knowing that, all I could think of was that Erin was sitting in the bathroom at the Birmingham Airport underneath the hand dryer. She had spoken to Bethany and was scared for her. She called us to tell us she loved us. How do I feel now? Numb. I can barely breathe knowing how close I was to losing her that day. How close I was to losing both of them. I could sympathize with my mother who was afraid for her child the same as I was afraid for mine. There are mothers across four states who went through what I did that day. What my mother went through. What your mother went through. What Ashton's mother went through. Every time I let myself think about it, I can't breathe. I don't know how they're dealing with it, but I know how I have chosen to. I have chosen not to deal with it. Denial? You bet. I can't live with the thought of losing her, much less facing how close I came on Wednesday."
Responses the day after that series of horrible tornadoes were emotional. Then I noticed a new Friend on Facebook: Toomers for Tide. Talk about a ground swell of support! Now I log on as often as I can to check the posts from Toomers. This poor guy has gotten help to keep this organized. Good thing! He seems to be organizing offers of help from across the country. This morning I saw responses from Annapolis, Las Vegas, Georgia, Ohio, Maryland.
It is so easy to get caught up in our own misery that often we don't open our eyes to the misery of others. It is easy to begin to doubt the elemental goodness of Man. We moved Erin home from Tuscaloosa yesterday. We saw only a very small area that was devastated by the tornado there. We made a point of staying out of the way as much as possible. But what we saw broke my heart. We saw cars that first responders had marked with spray paint to indicate whether or not a body had been inside. We saw rubble where businesses, already dealing with a struggling economy, once stood. One street over life was normal, untouched. What else did I see? National Guardsmen watching over a group of teenagers as they dashed across traffic. Orange Beach police vehicles parked next to Tuscaloosa City police vehicles. I saw bucket trucks three and four deep parked all along roads working to bring electricity back to ravaged neighborhoods. I saw people from all walks of life who had left their homes to reach out to those in need.
Looking back over the posts from Toomers I am reminded that I am blessed. My heart is full from the efforts of others reaching out to strangers. I mourn for those who were lost and their families. So why do I feel blessed? Because my loved ones survived. Because God was watching over the ones I love. Because God answers prayers - even those made up of, "Please, God, no." Three little words. Repeated. Over and over. And He heard me. I am humbled by the despair I see in others' faces as they beg for help on the news. I am humbled by goodness of others as they put their lives on hold to help others put their lives back together. I am a speck of dust in God's universe yet he heard my prayer. His answer could just have easily been something else. So now I will continue to repeat another short prayer, "Thank you, God. I am blessed."