Wednesday, May 29, 2013

From the Heart, My Tornado Volunteer Experience

Oklahoma experienced the most destructive tornado in its history on May 20, 2013.   My family and I were blessed; but, my friends, my coworkers and my community suffered greatly due to the massive destruction caused by the tornado. 
Moore Tornado Devastation 
A week later I am still struggling to find the peace that existed before this horrific event.  In an effort to reestablish some sense of harmony I was compelled to help those around me.  I was blessed that I hadn’t lost anyone or anything; I couldn’t sit idly by and simply watch as others suffered.
 Tornado Damage Moore
Typically Memorial Day weekend is spent with family and friends cooking out or going to the lake.  This year I spent it helping my friends sort through what was left of their home.  I had visited their home many times before so it was difficult to see their home ripped open and their lives stripped bare by such a destructive force.   My eyes wept for what they had lost, yet my heart celebrated their survival.  

Wreckage of Moore Tornado
Wet insulation covers their belongings, settling into the crevices the same way dust creeps onto every uncovered surface.  Glass shards from imploded windows cling to fabric like lint.     Rain soaked all  the soft surfaces leaving a musky scent throughout their home.  My steps took on an odd splash of rain mixed with a eerie crunch from the glass.

Homes lost in the Moore tornado.
At some point I am overcome with a sense of confusion.  What things do you attempt to save?  How does one assign a value to memories?  How do you mentally shift an item with emotional ties to piece of trash destroyed by nature? To where did the pieces of this delightful home get blown?  How does one begin picking up the pieces?  

Home damaged by tornado
What was once a welcoming family neighborhood had suddenly become a scene from a war documentary.  Through the destruction, neighbor began helping neighbor.  A community suddenly devastated discovered the beauty of humankind.   Within hours donations poured in and supply stations just appeared.

Tornado relief station

The shell shocked victims began sifting through the rubble, while a silent army of volunteers began boarding up windows, sawing down limbs, covering rafters and raking debris.   If you needed help moving something magically people would just show up, lend a hand and leave without expecting a thank you.  Every few hours some friendly soul would show up to offer a hot meal and a warm smile. 
Neighborhood ravaged by tornado
Lives changed by the fury of Mother Nature became lives touched by bounty of kindness.  My faith in mankind is replenished with every offer we received.  Although, some lost all of their belongings they gained a wealth of blessings and grace.  Love abounds amidst the destruction.  Hope rises up from the wreckage as we help each other.
Hope prevails over tornado
The carnage left in this neighborhood will not define these good people.  They are resilient and remain hopeful for a brighter tomorrow.   Their will to regain their sense of stability and community is greater than their fear.   The desire to remain grounded to home pushes them onward toward the future.
Tornado devastation
Emotions swirl as I watch a house being razed.  The home had been full of love and laughter.  It had once stood tall and proud; yet made of wood and brick, it had become weak.   Watching it fall made me ache for the memories past and thankful for the shelter it gave to save two beautiful lives.  They live on to show their gratitude by creating new memories in a home full of love and laughter.
Home before being razed 
The wreckage I see when I step out of what is left of my friend’s home reminds me of the fragility of life.  It’s simply not possible to feel anything other than small when faced with the enormity of the power this tornado held.  Once again, I am reminded that the only thing of true value is our relationships, our faith and our hopes.  If those could be ripped away, we would truly be left with nothing.
Homes leveled by tornado
Even though the ferocity of the tornado stripped our lots of their homes and stripped our homes of their contents, it couldn’t tear the hope from our community.   We will eventually forget the small items we’ve lost, but we will always remember the outpouring of generosity we’ve received.  Our tears of anguish are being replaced by tears of thankfulness.