Last Wednesday night, I'd made a nice ginger stir fry for our family, and had a great pot of chicken stock on simmer. We were feeling lazy after a long day. The sky went green, and a few friends called to ask whether we knew we were under a tornado warning (we live in SE TN, right smack dab in the middle of Cleveland/Ooltewah/Ringgold/Collegedale; the areas hit most hard by the storms)...and we made our way to our meager little laundry room in the middle of the house, all padded out by pillows.
The girls hung out in there while Nate and I stared at the clouds on the front porch, swirling and brooding, with the trees lashing and dancing back and forth all around our property. We started hearing a dull roar, and went inside. Soon, after, our windows, doors and what felt like even the walls started rattling. We heard what sounded like pounding hail, and we ducked inside the laundry room with the girls, and then the lights went out. (Our power stayed off for the next few days)
Eventually, we made out way out, grabbed a camping latern, and lit a few candles, and I followed Nate outside, Eva on hip. Trees were down everywhere. We took a flashlight outside, and realized that our backyard was littered with several different hunks of people's roofs.
The next morning, we wandered out to find several different colors of insulation scattered ALL over the yard, books, socks, paycheck receipts, splintered furniture wood, foam insulation, wrapping paper, papers, garbage can lids, tin roofs, siding, trash, a hunk of a RC cola vending machine cover, and all sorts of lumber splinters. It was hearbreaking; we felt as if we had inherited tragedy and heartbreak in splinters-remnants of the lives of others from God knows where-all over our yard.
An F4 tornado ripped by our home, devastating our city and those around us, and our area was declared an official disaster zone, and rightly so. I've never seen anything quite like it.
Blue springs road, this is QUITE close to our home. (I could post a map, but for privacy reasons, I'll refrain.)
A drive to work and the grocery told us that homes all around us had been completely obliterated. Driving our usual back way home that afternoon told the tale of a very close call for us (literally just hundreds of feet away from having our home in splinters) and complete tragedy for our next-street neighbors. Not only were there homes with portions sheered off, but there were foundations with debris scattered across open fields (the only remnants of what once were large houses).
A week later, as people are putting together stories and lives, I learned that a couple who uses our midwife and lives literally minutes from our home lost their sister, home and new little baby. Eight people died next to the park that we love, and the entire area looks like a war zone. Children's clothes are scattered in tree tops, animals are roaming free without homes and owners and grief is literally hanging in the air, waiting to punch you in the gut whenever you pass by.
The thing that's struck me as heartbreakingly beautiful is the outpouring of love from neighbors, and the resilience of LIFE. On the way out to pick up some laundry to do for a family who lost their home, where homes and trees and power lines are lying helter-skelter across beautiful pastures, a mama Candian goose crossed the road with her fuzzy little goslings in tow-right by a hunk of roof and tangled power lines. She looked at me as if to say, "Carry on! There are babies to care for and things to do!"
One of my clients gave birth to a perfect, healthy, pink little baby last night (not too long after power was restored!). Clothes that were once covered in splinters and dry wall dust are now in order again, ready to be worn! Retired old farmers in overalls, smelling of Old Spice and tobacco, are chainsawing fallen trees, giving smiles and salvaging possessions, and soccer moms with bright pink lipstick are handing out food and hugs. College students are donating peanut butter and hauling boxes for victims in their tiny little Toyotas. Love pulls us together. Life is a powerful force, and love is a powerful thing to be reckoned with. Love prevails.
This is my heartland. This is my home. If you think of us, send us your love and prayers...never underestimate the power of positive support and concern.