For the past two Spring seasons, the area in which I live has been faced with a series of rare (get it? can a series be rare?) occurrences for us –
You see, we live in a valley beautifully encapsulated by mountainous ranges. Essentially, we live in a bowl. Now we’re rather used to being attacked by a plentiful platitude of pollen for this very reason; but our mountains and foothills ordinarily serve as protective barricades to thwart off too much damage when ominously dark clouds begin to twist and turn. If the mountains themselves can’t do the job, then our hills and curves are apparently designed to confuse the path of any would-be windy assassination attempt.
Nevertheless, we’ve found ourselves in the predicament of seeking shelter in work stairwells, neighbors’ basements and on side road ditch excursions more often in these past two years than in the entirety of my life – which encompasses the amount of time I’ve lived in this area and have been previously told, “We don’t get tornadoes around here.” (I’m suddenly suspect of a lot of other past assurances I’ve been given and claims that have been made by my elders. Perhaps I can actually swim in the same pool as boys without becoming pregnant.)
Here I am during the last rare circumstance. As you can see, I now possess my very own Tornado Protective Gear. (Apparently I felt it was necessary to point it out, as you might have otherwise missed it.)
I even know exactly when to go to the basement and put it on – now that our little town has installed an emergency siren system with loudspeaker since the ‘massive’ EF1 (remember that we’re new at this) ripped across my prior deck and through our neighborhood the previous year, yanking up a tree that towered over my house and two others and, most fortunately, bringing it down ‘smack-dab’ (that’s a Southern expression) in the middle of all three. As I stood there with my neighbors, staring up at the root ball and looking back and forth between our houses, we did manage a gulp or two between us.
I might mention that the gear isn’t that comfortable to wear while trying to sleep on a concrete basement floor. But if we keep having these rare events, perhaps I’ll get used to it.
So there’s the set-up to this Theme of Renewal.
In April 2011, we had an entire day full of tornado warnings and work lock-downs, in which I became familiar with being stuck in the back of our parking garage, two stairwells, a hallway, a restroom and a room in the middle of our building. At one point late in the afternoon, I sat in a small inner room with three or four of my co-workers, as we waited it out to catch a break in the weather to head home before the next round of rotating air masses were scheduled to hit. One of our male co-workers joked that he didn’t understand why people always said a tornado sounded like a “freight train” (as compared, maybe, to a passenger train).
Finally, around 6:00 p.m., we all made a break for home. Not long after, I was faced with a darkening sky and no power, but I did have my cell phone. My friend/co-worker still had power at her house, so she was texting me with updates as I camped out in my basement. The house she had recently moved into didn’t have a basement, so she was thankful to still have her power to get the weather updates.
At approximately 9:00 p.m., the final string of storms was moving through our area. No sooner had I assured my friend, who lived slightly north of me, that I was okay (via text), than my cell phone died. (My power wouldn’t be restored where I could charge it for another 15 hours or so. I would also find I was trapped in my neighborhood due to trees being down across our roads.)
The first thing I did when the power was restored via temporary lines (as the trees were still across the main lines that were still down on the main roads) was to recharge my phone, so I could begin checking on friends and family. As the first cell lit up on my phone, so came the following text from my co-worker/friend (within minutes of our final communication the night before):
“House is gone. We are safe.”
Just before the tornado hit, she heard the meteorologist say it was headed in their specific direction and they should seek cover. As the television went out, she, her husband and her daughter ran for their lives to the hallway in the middle of their house. She threw her daughter on the ground and threw her body over her; her husband threw himself over them both. Though she later told me that a tornado most certainly does sound like a freight train (hers was an EF4 as compared to my EF1), she also remembers praying fervently and loudly above it! As the entire house crashed in around them, the chimney fell into the wall, which scooted the dryer into a space that caught the opposite wall as it caved in (forming a tented, triangular space over them). Though the night was pitch-black as they crawled out from under their house and walked barefoot through pieces of shattered glass, they were able to later see that where the three of their bodies lay crumpled together in a wad in that downstairs hallway was the only place in their house that wasn’t completely flattened on that first floor story within.
Oh, the Irony! For months following these tornadoes, people would find items that belonged to others – sometimes other people’s clothing, sometimes mail from other states that had also been hit. While cleaning her yard, my friend found the spine to someone else’s copy of Gone with the Wind.
Here’s a picture of Lori with her family. It’s the most recent one she has of them all together – and it, again ironically, was taken on the front porch of her dream home just 1 day before an EF4 tornado flattened it to the ground, with them in it.
The renewal started well before the rebuilding of the house.
My friend, Lori (whose spirit is as bright and beautiful as that blouse she’s wearing in her picture), later testified,
“I am blessed. I have a Savior who gave his life for mine, and I have a husband who I now know is willing to do the same.”
She also had friends and neighbors and church members and co-workers – and the Red Cross – who were there for her during her regrouping and rebuilding process.
Her home will never be the same. (For one, her new home has a basement with reinforced concrete.) She still gets nervous when a storm brews up. But that’s to be expected.
My friend, Lori, is a living, walking, breathing testimony of Renewal.
So, not to disappoint – let me share a picture of her new home in its (I mean, her) rebuilding process.
To view more concepts of the Renewal Theme,
be sure to visit this week’s photo challenge.