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Monday, April 27, 2015

Memory Monday - April 27

Today is the fourth anniversary of a tornado outbreak that ripped through our area. The passage of time has not lessened the impact of the images and videos. They make it seem like it all happened only yesterday. They still make me cry even as I know the buildings have been repaired and rebuilt, that our community has moved forward. I have seen it with my own eyes, but my mind and heart still remember the terror of that day. 

We woke woke up in the predawn hour to begin our day like any other. Moments after opening my eyes, I knew something was happening. There was a roar coming from outside but the source didn't immediate register. 
I looked out the upstairs window to see things being blown around our yard. I went downstairs and looked out and realized the debris was actually SWIRLING in our yard. My husband grabbed our son and headed to the basement as the power went out. 
Just as quickly as it was there, it was gone. We walked out to find our world in disarray. At that point, it was total disarray... we had damage, but we still had a home. I called my son's school to let them know a tornado had just went by our house and that he might be late..... the principal called me back a few minutes later to say they had cancelled school for the day because of the threat of tornadoes was very high for the rest of the day.

Since our power was out, we decided to go ahead and go into town. Getting off the mountain was an adventure. Around every bend on the road, there were trees and power lines down, blocking the path. People were already coming out trying to saw the trees up with chain saws and moving them with tractors. It's an amazing community of people in our area! 

After much effort, we finally made it off out mountain and headed to town. My husband took our son and I over to my mother-in-law's house and he went to work to see if any of their systems had been damaged in the storms.

We were watching the news and the tornado threats and reports of funnel clouds just kept coming. At midday, my husband went to KFC to pick up some lunch for all of us and as he was waiting for the food he turned and saw the funnel tearing across town, heading straight at the building! He asked how much longer his order would be and they said a few minutes. He said no one else really seemed concerned that this funnel was bearing down on them! He glanced one more time and told the person he'd be back some other time!
In the meantime, we were watching the news and just as they switched to a view from one of the remote cameras the station had mounted in our area and I saw the funnel pulling out from the clouds. I had my mother-in-law go to her basement with my son and told her it was headed our way. I was at the front door when my husband raced into the driveway and jumped out of his work van. His eyes were huge and he was quite pale. He had never seen anything like that funnel!

Not a moment after he got there, we stood and watched the tornado come into view. Two in one day. We were stunned to say the least. The tornado was several blocks away. As it moved by, we saw it jumping, almost pulsing. I was telling him it was hitting buildings and as the words left my lips we saw bricks and boards fly into the air, not knowing at that moment we were watching it hit our son's school. 

The power went out across the entire city and as night fell it was a little spooky. Other than the wind and lightning, there was very little sound. 
The Busy Bee restaurant

The next morning, it was still creepy. You could feel it in the air, the stunned silence of a devastated city. We left my mother-in-law's house headed to go back out to our house and salvage what we could from the fridge and check on things. 
As we drove through town, the devastation of the place we knew was as heartbreaking as it was awe-inspiring. The tornado had tore through so much in such a short amount of time, it was unbelievable. Places we had connections to were damaged, destroyed. Whole buildings were gone. Shattered glass, bricks and boards everywhere. The landscape that served as the visual landmark of the familiar was so instantly changed, it was difficult to know exactly where you were. 
We drove to the courthouse where our Jeep had been parked.... the tornado had hit the courthouse before tearing through the rest of downtown. Our Jeep had several windows shattered out, there were holes punched in the body on one side, there was several things missing from inside that had gotten taken by the wind, but it was at least still in one piece. We found scratches and streaks all down the driver side and on top.... one of the vans that had been parked nearby had gotten pushed against our truck, rolled OVER our truck and then was thrown down the street. A power pole near where my husband had parked had broken in half and the cables had held our truck down. They were so tight across the hood they had to be cut off. 
The van that rolled over our jeep in the tornado

We packed up everything we could from our fridge and freezer, packed suitcases and headed back to stay at my in-law's house because we knew it would be awhile before power was restored to our house. 
As soon as the power went out, all the stores that carry refrigerated foods, began to shut down. It against the health dept laws for them to sell food if the coolers aren't working. It didn't take long for people to go into survival mode. We only have a few places that have generators in stock and they were wiped out pretty quickly. The lines at gas stations were half to one mile long in most places... most businesses were just shut down because without power, the computers and registers didn't work. Many simply had no capability to complete transactions. Thankfully the power in town was restored within a few days. It took much longer for things to return to normal again. It was more than two weeks before the power at our house was restored! 
A line of cars waiting their turn at the gas pumps

Something like this shows you the reality of how many conveniences we live with everyday. There are things we do almost automatically and don't even think about, but when it is all stripped away in a matter of minutes, it is an Earth shattering moment. 

It's been four years. There are still scars that can be seen. Empty lots where homes and businesses used to be. Broken trees that still stand in silhouette against the sky. But all that remained and all that has been rebuilt stands as a testament. It represents a spirit of people standing together, reaching out, helping one another, working together. I only wish it didn't take a disaster to bring people together......


Some YouTube videos of the various tornadoes in our state that day: 


Some photos from BeauxPoint Photography

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