Last week an EF-3 tornado blew through my town. I’m 100% unscathed. I live on the opposite end of town from where it hit, and the biggest inconvenience for me is that I had to spend an hour in my basement in the middle of the night listening to the tornado sirens howl. Other than that minor inconvenience….unscathed.
I have friends who were very negatively impacted and are painstakingly going through the cleanup process. I’ve heard the stories, talked to people, listened to the different tales of how it was for others, seen the news stories. And yet I sit safely in my little bubble where nothing bad ever happens.
It’s a weird place for the brain to sit. Safe and secure. Unaffected. Unsure how to process the devastation others are going through. There is a weird sense of guilt about being separated from the hell others are living at the moment.
Last night I had a volleyball game so I had to go to the other end of town. I went my normal route – down the highway on the way to the game, and back roads on the way home. It’s the same circuitous route I take every Tuesday night. As I got closer to the courts I started catching glimpses of trees twisted off at the trunk, or split right down the middle, or completely uprooted and sitting in a field where they didn’t belong. Rooftops with blue tarps secured in place to keep the unending rains out. Cut up piles of trees sitting in yards as people have been unburying. Surreal. But not as bad as what I thought the remnants of an EF-3 would look like.
Spent our “warm up” time visiting with the girls on my team, one who had lost half her home to the tornado, and one who was close to her home being overtaken by the flooding, and I was in awe at their strength. Their laughter in the face of adversity. The positive attitude about such devastating events in their lives. I wondered how they did it. Volleyball was an escape for them. A normal thing in the middle of chaos. We played. We laughed. We hugged when we went our separate way after the games – something we never do.
On my way home, taking my normal back-road route, the full brunt of the devastation hit me. The path went right between the hospital and the high school – one of the poorest sections of our city. My mind spun as I saw house after hour with partial or no roofs. Trees mangled, twisted, on the ground, on top of homes.
And then I saw them. An old man and woman. Sitting on their front porch holding hands. Watching cars go by. Their surroundings so violently torn apart. Sitting peacefully with each other. The violence. The peace. Together in one surreal picture.
The inimitable human spirit astounds me. I’m in awe of those who are so gracefully picking up the pieces of their lives. Surviving the storm.