When Joey phoned from Tuscaloosa, crouched in the bathroom of his dorm at UA, watching a massive storm as it reached for the ground over Bryant-Denny Stadium, It was almost too much for this mother to handle.
Thankfully, our family is safe. We are/were blessed. The windows leaked from the sheer force of the rain and hail, the yard was a mess, shingles strewn about under the odd tree limb or two... But we are fine.
My neighbors - not so much.
My vets office is the single structure standing less than a half mile away... the same storm passed within 2 or 3 football fields of the girls' elementary school. Joe was in line to pick them up after early dismissal - he was rushed inside to huddle with the children while that particular tornado passed by. When they emerged, they did so to destruction in every direction.
The older kids' high school is about 2 miles from our home. They have been taking a quaint little "country" road to and from school for nearly 3 years now. The street was lined with family homes and a small farm. No more. There is not a home standing... in fact, you can't even tell what the rubble once was... the majestic oaks and tall pines that once shaded the homes are all gone... twisted and literally ripped in half by another tornado that stuck mid day.
At the end of that road sat a small church that had stood for more than two centuries. It was one of the oldest churches in Alabama. Today, it is rubble - a single pew is all that remains upright in the church. The steeple in wrapped around a broken utility pole down the road. I have a hundred pictures of Abby and Lilli in front of the Church as they attended preschool and kindergarten within it's safe and caring walls. Two of the wonderful teachers that we loved so much lost their homes - but they rejoice in the fact that their families are intact. I am in awe of these families and their strength.
One of Holly's best friends in now commuting back and forth from Tennessee - till the end of his senior year. His home is now flat. It remained upright long enough to protect his family - caving in only after they were all safe from the storm. We asked him to come stay with us for the last few weeks of school, but he politely declined as he wanted to be there for his mother - to support her and help with his siblings. They are a lucky family - in more ways than one!
I went to UA on Wednesday afternoon to pack Joey up and move him home - all classes and finals have been cancelled at the University. I had seen the storm damage photos of Tuscallossa - had seen all the videos on the We@ther Channel... but was unprepared when I drove down 15th Avenue. Homes, Business, and most importantly, lives that existed one moment - did not exist the next.
But amid all the destruction and shock and sadness, the citizens of Alabama and those from around the US who have rushed to help - they have come out in full force to start the recovery process. Where I would stand and not even know where to begin.... folks have stood and directed countless volunteers. Our community has come so far in a very short week....
God Bless my neighbors and all of those helping in any way they can.
**** Update**** Our Insurance Agent was just here and believes that our home was "wind wrapped" which means that there was great wind pressure put on our roof in a back and forth motion and all the beams in the attic have been twisted and are now not structurally sound. She said that is also what caused our windows and front door to leak - She is sending engineers to our home as soon as possible to decide what needs to be done. I so love our home... I hope they will be able to make it all ok again.