Tornado. When most people hear that word they automatically start to think of one of the most beloved children's stories of all time, The Wizard of Oz. The story of a little girl who is swept up by a tornado, in her home and dropped abruptly but safely to a mystical Munchkin Village in the land of Oz. In Dorothy's tale she doesn't have a bump or scratch on her, the only casualty in this story is the Wicked Witch of the East who was simply in the wrong place at the wrong time when D's home dropped from the sky. I'll be honest I'm surprised she was the only one killed, that house was rather large and those Munchkin villagers were rather small. It seems like this story tells children that if you are a good "witch" or good person, you won't get smooshed with a house in a tornado, that only happens to bad people/witches. Well friends, we all know as adults that this lesson isn't true.
As I sit here typing this to you in a word document to save for later, since I am without internet, I have learned to rethink the way things disappoint me. Today, the day after horrible storms and tornadoes ripped through Alabama and surrounding states. Every time I feel side tracked today because I couldn't email a proof to a customer, I reminded myself that someone out there can't find their loved one or worse have discovered that their loved one is no longer with us on this Earth. Every time I feel annoyed because my text message won't go through, or a call from my cell won't connect, I realize that there are people that have no home to rest their head and have lost their cell phones and everything they have ever held dear to their hearts.
I thought of these people while I took my warm shower this morning. Instead of mindlessly going through the motions, I took the time to be thankful for the warm water on my skin, the soap in my hands and roof over my head. Instead of rushing, I took my time and tried my best to count the blessings I had in my life at that very moment. I have a tooth brush, safe in it's holder and plenty of contact solution so I might be able to see, and a case to store these contacts in before I go to bed each night. I have clothing, I have deodorant and more importantly I have my life just as it was 24 hours ago.
Last night, once we finally gained back a single channel on our television and our cable, we watched the news before heading to bed to rest our heads on our warm pillows. They showed the devastation that spread far and wide through Alabama and my jaw hit the ground. I had no idea how bad it had gotten in other areas while at work all day yesterday. Tears filled my eyes. I can't being to imagine what these families are going through. Items can be replaced, I know this but I can't imagine a tornado crashing into my home and taking everything I ever worked so hard to attain whisked away in a split second. Even worse than that, I can't imagine a tornado ripping through my home and taking people from me that I spent my life creating a bond with. Its defeating and a helpless feeling even for me, and I have lost nothing personally.
Story after story is being shared today around this state and surrounding states effected by these storms. It's enough to forever break your heart. Stories I'm hearing are that of what horror movies are made, and sad extremely dramatic movies. This doesn't happen in real life... but yesterday it did. You only see half of the truth of how bad things are for most of these communities on the news. I think it's the media's way of protecting us. The reality is harsh from what I have heard, devastating and harsh.
The storm kept rolling today [yesterday] and reports through text messages from my friends back home in Maryland started to roll in. Some were in the basement, some were at work but all received the same message from me... "I am ok. Be safe and listen to all warnings! Take nothing for granted these storms mean business." I am still waiting to hear how things went up there as I type this. As I said I am off the grid right now with only a basic cell phone and 1-3 cable channels as my guides to the outside world. I don't even have a smart phone so the internet is not there for me.
Last night I received text messages via twitter from friends making sure I was ok and I want to say thank you for that! My friends back home all texted me upon finding out what was going on and it warmed my heart to know that people care from far and wide even if we have never met before in person. My father couldn't get through to me, and I couldn't get a call out to him - thankfully through the wonders of technology we finally sent texts back and forth and I could calm him and let him know I was safe, we were safe and that the most damage my home had was a fallen branch off our Bradford Pear tree that fell into the street. No damage, nothing lost. I am one of the lucky few and I am forever grateful.
This morning I walked in a haze, hearing the reports on the radio, seeing footage of the tornado that ripped through Tuscaloosa, AL. I've been there, I've seen where the damage hit, I've rooted for my favorite college team in that town - but my worries weren't with the buildings, it was with the people of the community. Tuscaloosa, AL, Cullman, AL, Arab, AL and Phil Campbell, AL are all close to where I live, most are a 20 minute drive to 2 hours in driving distance. The great state of Alabama is a large and expansive state and as of a few moments ago our death toll was up to 141 people. To me 1 person is too much. We have warning systems for this type of occurance - sirens, television, radio, even weather radios [reminder: purchase one ASAP!]. Usually if you have access to the radio or television or are within earshot of the sirens you know when trouble is coming sometimes up to 15-30 minutes in advance. We are constantly told to seek shelter. I will say that most people do listen, others may not but the bottom line is these storms were massive and some people found shelter as best they could in their homes and sadly, I don't know if most of our homes are as safe as we think. As I looked at the rubble on TV I realized how many of these homes were reduced to dust. Brick homes, homes you thought were sturdy, and if it hadn't been for a basement for these people they wouldn't be with us today. Many others were not as luck, living in trailers or homes without basements. These storms were intense and the tornadoes they produced were incredibly strong.
As an East Coaster - these storms freak me right the hell out. I've been here in Alabama for almost 6 years now and I still get shook up when I hear the sirens go off. I still get worried when the Emergency Broadcast System breaks in while we are watching television. Most nights it's for strong weather others it's for flooding but once you hear the siren go off you know it's a warning that tornadoes may touch down. Its a sick feeling to watch the clouds swirl and not know when it's going to drop. To be honest it's rare that I will even watch the skies. I'm always the first to yell "DO I NEED TO GRAB ANGUS AND JUNE? DO WE NEED TO GET IN THE BATHROOM NOW?!" Mike was born and raised in this area, he's used to this so he's a bit more calm. Myself I'm calm with most things, tornadoes I am not. Give me a hurricane any day, they give me warning to get out of dodge and batten down the hatches if I need to. Tornadoes sneak up and attack with little or no warning.
Yesterday during the storms a wall cloud formed downtown right close to our local University. This is the second time that this has happened since I moved here. The first time was my first year here. A dark, ominous cloud that you watch for rotation, spinning and dropping. While in the office where I work, with no windows we sat designing away when my co-worker said to me "Whoa... did you feel that?" I nodded yes. Not only did it sound like the wind shifted outside but, our ears had popped, and the pressure in the air completely changed in a split second. It was like when you ride in a plane and the air pressure changes, only maybe not as intense from where I was at that moment, but still, like nothing I've felt on the ground before. As we looked outside the front door the sky was pitch black, it was that wall cloud I just mentioned, hovering over us. I've never felt the pressure shift before while living here, to say I was worried is a huge understatement. Thankfully nothing happened here in town. Strong winds, gusts of rain [I thought of Forrest Gump with a bit of 'Stinging Rain'] and property damage due to all the wind and rain hit my town and surrounding communities.
Lots of neighbors reported no power, our power only flickered. Other people reported loss of cable, internet, phone lines - we experienced this. But like I said I don't feel right complaining. What do I have to complain about really in the grand scheme of things. I have my home, my health, my boyfriend, my pets my family, my friends and loved ones and in the end the things I love are just things, not people and not what is important.
My thoughts and prayers go out to all effected in these storms. I can't begin to imagine all you are going through but I can send my condolences, my love and my prayers to you. I hope in the next coming days that more and more support groups will come forward and organizations to help restore order to these places that were so badly hit. I also hope I will be able to help out with clean up, etc. See the end of this blog for information on how you can help.
My lesson in all this is that in a way Dorothy is right, there truly is No Place Like Home. Home is where your heart is, not where you hang your hat or where you park your car. Home is where you raise your family, and find your refuge. Home isn't a thing, it's a feeling - your roof and the structure is a house and while it keeps you safe and warm, it doesn't define you, it simply protects you. I know it's easy for me to say all this, since I have lost nothing. I hope that even though Dorothy never taught us tornado safety that we can take that message with us, and all of those effected can remember that we will rebuild and make our lives better, and stronger than they ever were before. I know it's easy for me to say this, with my warm bed, my house and my belongings all close to me, but I promise you I never take these items for granted. I want to help and I hope to do my part for everyone that I can because frankly, I feel guilty in some ways that I am OK after this horrible disaster. And the only way I can describe it is that my heart aches.
To all my blog buddies in Alabama and surrounding states, I hope you are OK. If you have information about support and donations etc. Please contact me so I can post this in a future blog for all to see and do their part if they so wish.
Thank you for listening!
WAYS YOU DONATE TO HELP DISASTER VICTIMS IN ALABAMA:
Online: Go to www.alredcross.org and click on the "donate now" link on the homepage
Call: 1-800-RED-CROSS (1-800-733-2767) and you will be prompted to a menu that includes financial donations
Text: "Red Cross" to 90999. A response will include two options for donations, either to Japan or for Disasters: domestic and spring storms.
You can also get in touch with the various chapters of the American Red Cross in Alabama by following the links below:
Northern Alabama http://www.redcrossrelief.org/
Central Alabama (Montgomery) http://www.montgomeryarc.org/
Southern Alabama http://www.redcrossalcoast.org/
Lost and Found Pets in the Alabama Area:
[I am so thankful that this has been set up!!]
*** In totally unrelated news I am overly excited about the Royal Wedding and the NFL Draft! I DVRed the wedding this morning AND worked out before work so I would be able to go home and watch the footage as soon as I walked in the door. Maybe I should get some champagne for the occasion? AND I am so over the moon for My Alabama Players 4 picked up in the first round of the Draft. I just have to wait to see where our Quarterback McElroy heads to. Congrats to my Roll Tide Boys! Please note Steeler Fans I'm not switching teams but I would be lying if I didn't admit to wanting to purchase a Julio Jones, Atlanta Falcons jersey and a Mark Ingram, New Orleans' Saints jersey! WOOP! You bet your ass I'll find a way to make it to a few Saints Games this year if I can! I had planned to write an entire post about both of these and may still later but right now the state of Alabama is more important to me than everything else happening in the world. Even though Kate Middleton looked absolutely amazing in her dress, and didn't her man look like a total Prince Charming?!?! I like to pretend that I'm a distant relative of the royal family, my lineage is from Wales of course. And for the record, Kate's sister, Piper... has my all time favorite girls name! I adore it! Cheers to the royals!