Friday, April 22, 2011

Twister, twisting my heart.

Last Saturday, a mean, mean, mean storm system came through our state. We hunkered down in our storm closet under our stair case in the middle of the house. We knew the storms would be powerful. The weathermen had warned us for days. But no one knew just how bad they would be. There were tornado warnings hours before the line of red reached us on the radar. Hours. Warning after warning. They were spotted. On the ground. And headed our way.

I made sure we had shoes on our feet. Should we get hit, we'd need shoes. I made sure we had pillows and blankets and snacks in our safe space. Rusty looked at me like I was half crazy. Joni, who came to ride the storms out with us, happily obliged but I think she thought I was going a little overboard. Jax even knew something was up. He was calm. And sat in that closet with us.



The weatherman said "there is a large tornado on the ground, headed toward downtown Raleigh". Our power was flicking on and off. Rusty finally joined us in the closet. He had his laptop in his lap, turning on backup servers for WRAL.com, as the rest of his team had no internet. At this point, I think we realized the tornado was going to miss us by a few miles. It was loud and wild out there, but it was surprisingly quiet in our closet.

About 10 minutes later, we came out. On the news, everyone at WRAL had evacuated to the basement at the station. Except for the weatherman and the cameraman. Can you imagine? The footage started rolling in. The pictures were showing up on Facebook. There were kids that lost their lives. There were families that lost their homes. The stories were so powerful. A yearbook that was picked up by the tornado in Sanford and landed in the Raleigh area, 60 miles later. The weather service just announced today it was a record tornado outbreak for our state. Videos are surfacing. Stories of survival are uplifting. Stories of loss are gut wrenching. And they just keep coming in. The damage is so widespread it's surreal.

Today, Rusty and I had the opportunity to go with a friend to volunteer at a home that was damaged by the storm. It was north of us, in the neighborhood near Serendipity, off of Forestville Road. Those watching the news know that this area was hard hit. I tried to prepare myself for what we'd see. There were lots and lots of trees down and tarps scattered on almost all of the rooftops along the road.

Their house was atop a hill. They were missing a wall along the entire length of their house on the second floor. Their windows were blown out. Their blinds mangled. There was glass everywhere. And tiny pieces of insulation stuck on everything. Even behind their dresser in their bedroom, in that tiny space, the power cords were coated on all sides with insulation. I cannot imagine the spin and wall of rain that would do such a thing.

The family was home when the tornado hit. They huddled in the closet underneath their stairs. With their almost one-year old son. The husband said that he had to hold the door closed, as the tornado was trying to pull it open. Their ears were popping. The walls were shifting around them. I mean, can you even imagine?

We were assigned the task of cleaning the baby's room. Oh, my heart hurts just thinking about it. Rusty and I cleaned out the clothes and items that were covered in insulation and strewn around the closet. There was a big hole in the wall of the closet. Just outside the baby's door the wall was gone. I packed away little outfits that were the same that our Asher wore. Little PJ's that were the same. Little onesie's. It's like I was looking at Asher's closet. And here we were, complete strangers, going through their son's belongings. Taking apart his crib. Wow. It was emotional. But it felt good to help.

We continued, our little army of workers, operating shop vacs and wearing our masks. The family had to move to an efficiency apartment. A lot of their furniture had to be thrown out, as it was covered in shards of glass, tiny pieces of insulation and soaking wet. We picked up so much glass. Pieces of other people's houses in their bedroom. It was insane. And, their house was no where near as bad as some of the others. Apparently their builder built the homes to the standards of eastern NC, which means that they have to be able to withstand stronger winds. This was because the neighborhood was built atop a hill. The structural engineer said that's likely what saved them. They said they thought they weren't going to make it. Can you even imagine?

Driving away, Rusty and I were quiet, digesting what we had seen. We were thankful that we were safe. We were thankful for the ability to help. I looked at each of the tarps on both sides of us, realizing that underneath them were pieces of glass, bits of insulation and debris. People's lives all twisted around and forever affected. It makes me catch my breath thinking of it.



God, please be with all of those affected by these storms. Please help everyone to heal. And please help us find ways to help each other. Thank you for keeping my family safe. Help us to never take life for granted. Amen.

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