Sunday, May 15, 2011

Alabama Tornadoes 4/27/11

Hello, all. I am so sorry that I have not blogged recently. These past few weeks have turned out to be quite challenging for me. My heart goes out to all of the tornado victims throughout the state of Alabama. I have seen things in the past few days that I hope to never see again. Most of it is so unreal that it seems that the destruction is constructed like props on a horror movie set. The devastation across the state is horrific. Things are not where they belong and it is terrible. I try to make sense of it all, but somehow, I just cannot. Most people do not think that they will see a tornado much less its destruction in their lifetime. These storms have taught me several lessons and given me a new outlook on life.

On the afternoon of the storm, I was on my way to school (University of Alabama-Tuscaloosa) about 3:30 to take a final exam. When I arrived at the door, my fellow classmates were telling me to leave and go home as the weather was supposed to get very bad. I had been tracking the storms on my phone and thought I had plenty of time to run a quick errand before going to meet Billy at my apartment. Somehow, when I got to my car, I had the gut feeling that I should go immediately home to see Billy. Again, I realize now that it sounds stupid of me to want to “run an errand” before a bad storm. However, at the time, I did not take tornadoes seriously. I returned to my apartment where Billy and I decided to hide under the concrete stairs at the bottom of my apartment complex. I, being the ridiculous one, kept kidding with him about checking the weather. For some reason, I continued to think that it was just weathermen over-reacting. All I can say is, thank goodness for Billy. He was the calm one that I needed when I did not realize the potential of this storm. As we sat under the concrete, we suddenly felt and saw all the signs you are warned about when tornadoes come. Birds stopped chirping, it got extremely hot, and a cloud of dust moved right in front of us faster than I have ever seen. We watched the clouds turn in a circular motion and the tornado quickly touched down right across the river from my apartment complex. It seemed like it took years for the tornado to end. Repeatedly, I replay that moment in my mind and I try to make sense of what it looked like. Literally, who thinks they will see an entire tree swirling around inside a tornado? It was such an incredible sight and I mean that in a shocking sense. After it left our line of sight, I was so traumatized; I did not know what to do next. My cable, internet, and phone did not work so; I had no idea of how bad the damage was. It was about three hours later before I was able to figure out the size of the damage in Tuscaloosa. I was so scared because I could not get in touch with my closest friends. Billy and I went to a Burger King on the other side of town. There, we waited for almost two hours to eat. Being in that restaurant was so bizarre. It was then that I began to realize how bad the tornado really had been.

The next day, I went with a close friend to survey the damage to her father’s house. Unfortunately, it was destroyed. We helped a few other families salvage what they could. Even then, I was still in shock. I looked down and saw a Christmas card in the middle of a truck’s windshield. It was such a small detail in all the debris yet; it seemed so fragile and important because it belonged to someone who would never find it.

I wish I could say that I am not scarred from the damage now engulfing my college town. Sights such as a truck in a basement with no home on top definitely make for quite the reality check. I am so blessed that I am safe and so are my loved ones. I do not believe I will ever be able to make sense of this tragic event in my state. Cooking, fashion, and home design, the articles I write about on my blog, seem to take a backseat in times like this. I mean that this tornado has really made me focus more closely on the true important things in life. It has also made me want to follow my dreams more than ever. Now, as I reflect, I cannot believe that this is how my college years at UA have ended. I never had a last day of school, finals, or a graduation (at least not until August 6th). Life is weird right now. Everything just stopped and that was it for my college career. As much as I grew attached to Tuscaloosa over these past four years, it means even more to me now. Truly, my heart goes out to my college town.

As my mom works for the State Health Department, I have also traveled across the region with her visiting East Franklin, Phil Campbell, Cordova, and Hackelburg. Having seen the devastation in these areas, I am quite impressed with the employees of the state of Alabama. So many of these workers have gone beyond the call of duty to make the best of this trying situation. Having my own mom work ninety-eight hours of overtime in seven days and use eight hundred cellphone minutes definitely puts this devastation into perspective. I am so fortunate and I hope to not to forget the lessons of this storm for my lifetime. In addition, I am a big proponent of taking one of your own talents and using it to help others. As this sate tries to mend itself, I hope that all of you will take time to extend a caring hand to others. It is a crazy world out there so, be safe! Thanks for stopping by to read about my experience. Please continue to keep all of Alabama in your thoughts and prayers. Love you all and Roll Tide!

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