Today marks the “anniversary” of the devastation caused to our little town by an EF4 tornado. It’s been a full 365 days; 52 weeks and one day; 525,600 minutes. However you measure it it’s been a year, a year filled with changes.
On this date last year I had “refugees” from the storm in my house…all of us somewhat cut off from society with no electricity, spotty phone service, no gas and no internet, no idea what all was going on with the exception of the information we could get through the police scanner and from what we could tell, it was organized chaos.
Today I sit here alone in my house at my laptop reading tornado remembrance posts on facebook and typing up a post just as much for my own well being as it is to share my thoughts with you.
Last year, the sounds of helicopters and police car sirens filled the air. Today I sit in a relatively quiet house, the sound of the furnace fan blowing and an occasional car or truck going by the house are all I hear. Then it was warmer than usual but the temperature was falling. Today we started out at 16 degrees, we’re only going up to 22 and there’s a wind chill. Then I was trying to figure out what exactly I was going to feed the people assembled at my house and how were we going to stay warm, where would we sleep? Today I’ve got chicken out and plan to go prepare it soon for my kids who will be swooping in at different times to eat, the heater vent is just beneath me, keeping my toes toasty warm and I’ve put fresh sheets on the bed upstairs for tonight’s slumber. Yes, what a difference a year makes.
There are other differences of course, most all of them for the good. People are finally starting to move back into their homes. Homes are going up all over the place. The buzz of construction fills the air and the landscape is springing up with beautiful homes in a variety of colors and shapes, not unlike the springing up of flowers in the springtime. It is starting to feel crowded in these places where everything had been laid flat and blown away. No longer can you stand in one place and see for blocks and blocks. Still, I get lost when I travel to these areas, nothing looks the way it used to and for someone who drives by landmarks this is difficult. I can relearn the landmarks though.
Neighbors are welcoming neighbors back home, grocery store conversation almost always turns to “How’s the rebuilding going?” or “Are you back home?” and I think my all time favorite, “Who’s your insurance company?” People light up when they tell you how many days until they return home. Of course they will also admit that while a new house and belongings are nice, HOME as it was cannot be replaced. But forward is the motion of the day and everyone is putting one foot in front of the other. Things are better. Not ALL better, but better.
While the work of construction is just beginning for some and others are not ever going to return to their neighborhoods for a variety of reasons, I am amazed at all that is getting done. Businesses have returned and 800 + building permits have been issued to replace the more than 1,000 lost. To see the activity in the “zone” brings hope to my aching heart.
It has been a privilege for my family and I to do whatever little bit we can do. Last weekend we spent some time helping to give away trees to families who were ready to get something planted in their new yards. While it was a nice feeling to help in that way, it was so much more meaningful to me to hear them tell their stories, to celebrate their new homes, to cry with them over their losses and to hug them. That probably did more for me that I could possibly ever do for them. I was even lucky enough to reconnect with a high school friend who was all moved into his new home. So good to lay eyes on him.
Of course everyone was asking me and each other, “Where were you when the tornado hit?” Usually after that they ask, “Were you hit?” or “Did you lose your house?” These are questions I have still not figured out how to answer. They are among the few questions that leaves me fumbling for words. What do I say? “No, THANKFULLY I still have my home.” or “We were fine, no damage.” What is a response that does not sound boastful in my own ears.I guess they call this survivor guilt? I’m not sure that’s what it is, but it trips me up every time.
Honesty is the best policy right? So, I usually go with, “Our family rode it out in the basement. We were not in the direct line of the storm that day, but our hearts ached for those who were hit and we felt so helpless.” I’m not sure if that’s an adequate answer, but it’s honest. I also know that I am more sensitive to it than those who ask the questions. Not a single one of them begrudges another their home, security or well-being. This is something I put on me and something I have to work through.
It’s been quite a year around the table and it seems fitting that on the weekend exactly 52 weeks after the tornado, we moved our oldest son from his apartment into his own home. A house he bought himself. A house situated on the North end of the street he grew up on. A house just two blocks away from the school that helped him through is difficulties with Asperger’s before we even knew Asperger’s was what we were dealing with. His home.
The weekend did not pass without thoughts of what we were doing 52 weeks ago versus what we did this weekend. The weather was noted, it snowed some this year and was very cold. We did not mind. We were all together but we had heat and electricity and a hot pot of chili. No worrying what to feed folks this time.
On Sunday, that exact marker of the 52 elapsed weeks, we got up and milled around the house, just like we did 52 weeks earlier. We turned on CBS’s Sunday Morning and watched Charles Osgood host the magazine news show, just as we did 52 weeks prior. It was a normal, regular Sunday morning, living one moment at a time, which thankfully ran its sleepy little course, quite unlike it did 52 weeks ago.
Here’s to another year and all of the hopes and dreams and fears and follies it brings. I will live it out moment by moment always knowing that it could all change in the next movement of the minute hand. I am grateful for all that has happened in my life in the year past, the good, the bad and the ugly. These are the moments that prepare us for the next crisis, remind us what we are made of and give us greater appreciation for the people in our lives.
If you are interested, my post about the tornado can be found here.