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Tuscaloosa Tornado—We will be OK

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Yes, that is a roof….on the ground. Where is the rest of the house? About a half mile down the road. The owner sprayed that on the roof so the rescue workers could move on to other houses the might not have people who are OK.

It has taken me a few days to even have the energy to sit down and post. Also, every time I try, so much spews out of my hands that it’s no longer a coherent piece of writing–not claiming that ANY of my posts are worthy of more than a passing glance, but at least I use capital letters and punctuation. And when I sit down to try to put into words what is going on and how I’m feeling, I realize there are no words right now to describe those things.

Yes, we still tell our time by how many days it’s been since “that Wednesday” (keep in mind….this monster storm system that produced the tornado got it’s start on a TUESDAY. I rest my case on Katrina v. Tuesday). We ask each other “what day is it?” “We did this on THAT Thursday” or “We finally got into Alberta on THAT Friday” or “Did we just go down that road..no, we went on THAT Saturday and today is Monday”

We all know what we are talking about even if nobody else does. We’ve become adept at reading gestures and reading minds. Most of the rescue workers can finish each other’s sentences when we just can’t get the words out. I do believe that speech is the first thing to suffer when physical exhaustion starts setting in, or else someone spiked the water bottles. By curfew time, some of us are slurring like a long lost sailor back at port. And nobody else in this world could tell that I was trying to ask if we had taken chimichangas to the the lower ward in Alberta when my sentence was simply “have we taken the…umm…those things..to…….(pointing wildly in general direction)?”.

Yes, we have found some very interesting things in the cleanup. There are some very fulfilled people in Tuscaloosa…fulfilled in the “adult activity” sort of way. I didn’t have the heart to go door to door to ask who was missing Big Blue. But I did laugh my head off when someone showed it to me after it was found by a downed pine tree. You can’t make that stuff up.

Yes, we have to laugh at the irony. I had a major devastating hurricane named after me and now I’m living in the area of a second federal disaster that is being compared to that hurricane. If I hear “This is NOT going to be like Katrina” or “This is Obama’s Katrina” ONE MORE TIME, I’m going to throw something. Probably something with glass, nails, wood, or steel bits tangled in it. That’s about all I can find within reach these days.

Yes, we have moments when we can’t take it and we just cry. We have to or we will explode or collapse.

No, we can’t explain a tree skinned of it’s bark and huge branches twisted off with blooming flowers growing around it untouched. Nor can we explain how our church is a huge tangled steel mess, but the beautification award tree and the memory tree in honor of the death of one of our member’s children is still standing untouched. I have a picture of the tree (bush, really, it’s only 4 years old) with the mangled church face in the background. It boggles the  mind.

We can’t explain 190mph winds to people who are not standing there to see the results. I can’t even believe my own pictures. We can’t explain how some lived through it while asleep on their couch with the house down around them and some in basements with four walls still standing didn’t.

We CAN explain the absolute heartbreak at losing our one and only Krispy Kreme donut store. Y’all feel our pain on that one, I know.

We CAN explain the severity of the words spray painted “you loot, we shoot” on houses. Everybody understands the desire to protect what’s ours even if people disagree on the method.

We can’t explain the miracle of EVERY CHILD at Holt Elementary coming back to school in their substitute building OR had been contacted by phone. The community of Holt (neighborhood within Tuscaloosa) was destroyed. Both schools are damaged beyond repair. Many lives in Holt lost. But none of them students of Holt Elementary. We can’t explain that…but we can rejoice in it.

Life is getting into a new normal. Normal for me is no longer going to CrossFit, school, running, enjoying cooking a meal, talking with Stephen, reading a book, and peaceful sleep. I no longer have some “downtime”. I no longer take time to train for my Twisted Ankle Half. Thank goodness, I was in the two week taper so I should still be ok for next Saturday. I no longer stay on top of a clean kitchen and clean clothes. The kitchen actually stays clean-ish because we are not there until late at night and we leave each morning. The laundry gets started, then one of us will remember to dry it. One load of laundry took 4 days to get folded and put away..actually no. It took 4 days to wash, dry, and us to grab it out of the dryer and put it on again.

Life is now saying hello to the Guardsmen who are blocking the road in front of our church and them asking how school went or how many trees did Stephen’s crew from the steel mill cut that day. It’s trying to keep my kids peaceful and happy at school because they need that stability just like I do, but knowing at 3:15, I’m going to a new world for me. And bracing myself for the not so pleasant parts of disaster relief.

Normal is praying with strangers who just want a bottle of water and a prayer in front of their slab foundation and car in a tree.

Normal is our principal delivering payroll checks to 13 teachers in a destroyed house of one of my closest friends who also works with me. How many times has THAT happened?

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Normal is reading the latest news to see that we take care of our own. The church and faith based organizations were on the ground Thursday morning passing out water and snacks and it has grown exponentially from there. Normal is taking food to the police guarding Rosedale court from looters. Not our looters..but people from other places that prey on disasters. Almost all of the looters arrested (and not many…the military force is amazing!) are from out of state or out of town.

Normal is for the first time, viewing everything I eat as FUEL. During day long relief trips, I made sure I had access to the right amounts of carbs and protein. It may have been a hot dog and peanut butter crackers, but I knew I needed fuel to keep going at the rate we are going. Normal is also realizing that I’m so very blessed to have access to healthy food. I will never take that for granted again.

Normal is listening to the non-stop tornado relief information on the local radio to see where the need is for the day. These two guys have local information, calls, and discussion from 8am-8pm each night and they have become our lifeline to the areas that need help. We couldn’t do this without them. Every night before they sign off, they play an inspirational commercial from Taco Casa, a local taco stand. One of their stores is spread all over ttown right now. But they played a commercial one morning and the immediate response from listeners was overwhelming. Now they play it at night before they sign off. It’s a routine we need.

Normal is realizing that we will not be back to normal for a long long time and that’s ok, too. Many of us will find that we will be better. We will be a better person. A better town. A closer community.

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Gone but not forgotten-Tuscaloosa Tornado 2011
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Recovery, relief, and coming together

I’ll take “It’s about to get real” for a thousand, Alex. | Katrina Runs For Food

Thursday 1st of March 2012

[...] and all that was left was to hide and watch. As many readers know, it was an event that still wakes me up at night drenched in cold sweats.  And those mornings are hard to get started. It’s easy [...]

Sarah (Running To Slow Things Down)

Tuesday 10th of May 2011

*Hugs* You are such a strong woman. I'm glad you are okay. You, and everyone else who went through this, are in my prayers and thoughts.

Tina @ Faith Fitness Fun

Monday 9th of May 2011

Just wanted to say here that I'm glad you are okay. You are amazing for the help and love you are giving to others.

I love the hope in this post too. It shows such strength.