Saturday, April 30, 2011

Blessed in so many ways...

Well, this isn't a typical post for me. After last night's tornadoes, I just can't wrap my brain around what happened. How could something that devastating happen so close and we have no damage? Call it hormones or whatever, but I can't shake this feeling of being so blessed and feeling bad about feeling blessed.

They say sometimes the best therapy is to write it all out. I don't blame you if you don't read this post, but I have to get this off my chest and make some sense of my emotions and thoughts. I apologize if this goes a little ADD, I am just writing as it comes to me.

To start off this story, I am going back to yesterday afternoon. I was just getting back to the office from an appointment and a coworker told us that we needed to go home immediately because of the weather. I looked at a radar online and saw that if we did leave, we would drive straight into the nightmare, something I didn't want to do. We saw that there was a break in between the red on the radar and that we could probably make it home in between the red bands, probably. Soon after the decision to stay through this wave, Greg called me to tell me that he was at work and they had been taken down into the basement.

I freaked. Maybe it was hormones, maybe it was being a "grown-up", but I panicked and started thinking worst case scenarios.  I started balling. I made sure to sound calm to Greg about everything, but I made sure to tell him that I loved him. The thought of why I made sure to tell him made me UGLY cry. I waited that band of storms out at work. Being in an old building scared me, but being alone (without Greg) scared me more. I watched the rain go horizontal and the lights flicker. I began to pray and immediately felt better. After an half an hour or so, the sky cleared and I jumped into my car and drove home. It was sunny and pretty-- such an oxymoron of what I had just seen.  I made it safely home without driving through any rain. I saw tons of traffic lights down and knew that we had not seen the worst of this storm.  Getting off the interstate, I sat at the red light, the sun peeked through the clouds and I felt like it was directed straight on me. I smiled to myself and thought that was God's way of telling me he would protect me through this storm.  This was what I needed. Call me crazy, but I get "feelings" and had had bad "feelings" for the past couple of days, but had not told anyone, frankly because I hate admitting those feelings.

Greg was released from work early and we got home just about the same time. Other than us being home early, we went about as if it were a normal afternoon. We kept our eyes on the radar knowing that it was a matter of time before the normal of the day would fade away.

As night fell, I got a frantic call from my mom. She told me of the tornado that ripped through Tuscaloosa, we had been so wrapped up about our area, we didn't know what was going on anywhere else. So I began looking online at videos of the horrific scene in Tuscaloosa.  At that point, I was afraid that I had figured out what my "feelings" were about.  We quickly turned the channel to see about where this storm was going- and it was headed straight for us. At that moment, Greg and I both started preparing what we would do, where to go, what to take, how to go about all of this. We piled our powder bathroom with pillows, blankets, safety glasses, gloves, water, and our computer.

We kept one eye out the window and one eye on the radar. We knew it was headed straight for us and about what time to expect it. The rain was not hard, the wind began to pick up, and the sky turned a scary green. At that moment, we grabbed the pets and got into our powder bath. We sat in there for about an 1/2 hour or so, watching and waiting. The lights flickered and the satellite blinked, but we never lost power and only lost the satellite for a few minutes. We watched the radar on the computer and waited until we were out of the red. The whole time I was petrified, but kept thinking about that ray of sunshine I had seen earlier and had faith that we were going to be protected. Our cell phones stopped working while we were in the bathroom, we assumed a tower had gotten knocked down from the winds. We wanted to tell our families that we were ok, but did not have a good way to do that. Thank goodness our internet still worked and we were able to use email and Facebook to get in contact with people.
A neighbor took this picture of the tornado behind our house.

As we got out of the bathroom, Greg and I both were relived that it wasn't as bad as we thought it was going to be....then we heard sirens and saw a message on facebook from our neighbors about the fast-food restaurants and hotels that were demolished less than a mile from our house. We sat in disbelief of how close we had come to having everything taken away from us and that is not a feeling that I EVER want to have to deal with again.

This brought back painful memories of a summer day in 1996.  My mom was going to the store to pick up ingredients to make her best friend a birthday cake. She had almost left me at home alone, but decided last minute to drop me off at my grandparents' house just up the street. I remember trying to decide if I wanted to wear my new jelly shoes or not--and if you know me, I chose to go barefoot. It's crazy what little details you remember about your past-- I know that I had a gray t-shirt on from the Zoo Gallery and blue-jean cut-off shorts. I got to Nana's and Papa's and ran upstairs to play games on their computer-- it was a game about Jerusalem where you went all over town and talked to people. After a few minutes, there was a horrible banging on the front door... the person at the door was screaming that the "Hale's house is on fire". I remember rushing outside and seeing the flames gushing out of the house. I don't know who, but someone called my Dad at the bank to tell him--just as my Mom got to the bank. I remember driving up to the house and sitting across the street while locked in the car. The flames were everywhere--the whole house was on fire at once. All I could think about was my little dog in the home. I knew I would never see him again. Living in a rural area, our fire department was not fully equipped to handle our house. By the time they were there with water, it was too late. We had already lost everything. Nothing but ashes.

When I was younger, all I could focus on were my things that I had lost--my dress up clothes, my dolls,  tea sets, etc... As I have gotten older, I understand how painful this must have been for my parents--losing a home that you built with your own hands--even to stucco the whole house, all of Mama's grandparents furniture,  all the videos, pictures, artwork from when I was little....everything gone.

Later, we found out that lightning had hit our refrigerator and it had exploded. The electrical charge in the house was so great that everything electrical, even if not plugged in, had instantly caught on fire as well. The cast iron tubs had split in half. All the copper wiring in the house had melted.

There are days that I wonder why that happened to us. I am so blessed to have had two strong parents that persevered through those tough times. They taught me alot during that dark time in our lives and I think it has made me a better person because of it. I also see it as a starting point to how my life changed and took me where I am today. But most of all, I have learned that a couple that loves each other and leans on God and family and each other, can make it through anything.

Within hours of our house fire, neighbors, church members, friends, and family were at our side--bringing us clothing, food, giving us shelter, and most of all comfort. At that time, I saw what a true community was all about--being there for others when they needed you the most. From that point on, I knew how important it was to give back and to be there when others were struck with a crisis of their own.

These storms have ripped through our little town and have brought so many to that low place that I remember. I know that it eventually gets better, but I hope that they know that their community is behind them and ready to support their needs. It pains me not to be able to help the way that I want to. My heart is screaming--go help remove debris, find people, feed those emergency workers, give blood, donate clothes and supplies. I can't help with clean-up or giving blood. I can't get to where the workers are to bring them food or drinks, but I can pray--I can donate supplies, clothes, food to places that will get it to those who need them. I might not ever get to meet someone that I helped--but I'm not in it for the glory of being known as a giver...I'm in it to give, just like so many did for our family so many years ago. You might not ever meet who is helping you, but knowing that their are people out there that care for you is such encouragement for the suffering.

With that said, please donate what you can to these areas that have been devastated by this weeks' storms. It might not be much, but every bit helps and every bit gives hope to those who are struggling with grief, uncertainty, and hopelessness.

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