Sunday, May 1, 2011

tornado

i love a creative title. i reached far for this one. so, wed april 27th. a day that changed the landscape of my city forever. early on wed a.m., 5, to be exact. i woke up to silence. we have surround sound in our bedroom and use a sleep cd. so, when the power goes out, the silence is noticeable. we don't have a ton of power outages but it's not totally uncommon. it was stormy. i figured it was pretty temporary. but, it wasn't. i got giles ready for school by candlelight and flashlight. we pull into the school parking lot. {geez, replaying this, it feels like it was a  year ago!!!} it's dark. i call my friend carolyn. she tells me that school is cancelled. {sweet carolyn had NO idea how drastically her life would change in just a few short hours, she lives in a historic neighborhood that was devastated} so i end up talking to my dear friend katy. her school was cancelled too. so, we had no power. we have kiddos that love each other's company. so, to katy's we head. we played out there for a couple of hours. then we decided to come home to check on the power. still nothing. we {this is me with giles} read books, have tickle fights, took a few short- very short- naps, played, etc. by about 12:30 there was no power, i didn't want to open the fridge/freezer b/c of the power, we were getting hungry and i was supposed to have a VERY busy day with my business. so, i was getting frustrated. we decided to head out to mcD's for an internet break, lunch & some play time. when i went outside my neighbor was getting in his car. he said his bank was closing at 1pm. at that point, i had almost forgotten about the threats of upcoming bad weather. we have so many "false alarms" with tornadoes. schools seem to close at the drop of a hat lately--- and it just never seems to get that bad. the fact that the banks were closing- or his, at least- kind of set off an internal alarm. i was heading to the mcD's by my house, but it is on skyland blvd. and it seems like skyland sees it's fair share of poor weather. so, i actually was planning to run by my bank first before heading to mcD's. i called mike to tell him what tommy had told me about his bank. it was mike's opinion that maybe it was just a small bank- or at least not as big as regions- and that for sure regions would still  be open. so, i head that way. and nope, it was not open! but, that really didn't freak me out too badly because the main branch is where the computer is based and the power was probably still out downtown from the thunderstorms from earlier in the day. but it still confirmed that little internal alarm that was already on alert. so, i call my mother in law. i asked her if she wanted the good news or the bad news first... we were headed her way- ready or not- but, we'd be glad to bring lunch! lol... she was glad we were coming and we set out on our way. eeeekkkk! i had quickly forgotten that i had promised mcD's to the toddler. mimi and papa's house is great and all, but it's not the playground at "old macdonald's farm"--- so, we set off to complete our original mission. to play at "old macdonald's farm." but, the one in northport near the in-law's house. we're there about an hour. we finished up there and headed to in-law's house. while there, giles played and i watched james spann. i try to follow when they are on storm watch. but sometimes it's hard to follow along. especially for the directionally challenged ;). anyway, as the afternoon wore on, giles decided he wanted a nap. so, he took his papa and they went downstairs to the basement {finished split level, so really just the lower floor of the house} to nap. then the weather started getting a little crazy. LOTS of wind. then rain and thunder/lightening. and my mother in law heads to the couch downstairs. i gather all of my stuff and head down behind her. i was a little more alarmed, but we were hearing downtown tuscaloosa/northport and that wasn't us. so, we stay down there til it seemed to pass. giles slept thru it all, thank goodness! we had heard that some of the windows at the hospital {which is about 1.5miles from my house} were blown out and that the mall {about 1mile from my house} had sustained some damage. i decided to head home to check on the dogs, cats, house & electricity. i wasn't expecting damage, but then again, i hadn't heard there wasn't damage in our neighborhood. we live in an older neighborhood with huge, beautiful old trees. great, except in a storm. i start heading down mcfarland blvd {like poplar in memphis} towards our neighborhood. about halfway there, the traffic was backing up. i thought "uh-oh"--- and i thought, i'll be smart and go the back way. well... that took about 2 hours. it was the most surreal, panicky time i can remember. traffic was jammed EVERYWHERE. it looked like the parking lot at dead show. people, especially college kids, were dazed and walking all over the place. i had NO NO NO NO NO idea how serious our city had been hit when i left my in laws house. like i said, the hospital and mall were mentioned to have been affected somewhat. my MIL said after i left, they started using words like demolished, destroyed... she tried to call me. couldn't get through. that time i spent in my car was so frightening. i didn't have a ton of gas. no gas stations had power as i got closer to my house. i was totally remembering katrina. with all of the people walking and in shock. i took of my wedding ring and hid it. i put my laptop on the floor of the car. my a/c wasn't working right and i was totally panicky and burning up, but i kept the windows up if my car wasn't moving because of all of the people walking so close to my car when i was stopped in traffic. there were ALL kinds of folks, not just college kids. i kept waiting to see someone i knew. or even someone that might have been a mom with kids like me. after many failed attempts at the shortcuts, i headed for the interstate. it was smooth sailing for a few minutes. then, even as it was getting dark, you could look out and see the landscape had changed there as well. the traffic slowed to a crawl. again, no one around me looked familiar. it was so unsettling. where were all the moms and their kids?!?! i just needed to see "normal." my cell service was extremely spotty and mike's trying to help me home via the phone while he's in MISSISSIPPI! he's watching the news and telling me to take roads i wasn't familiar with and i wasn't listening to him. we were screaming back and forth. he was telling me where to go, i wasn't thinking he knew what the hell he was talking about because he wasn't there!!! it was comical--- i guess. lol... so, FINALLY, a cute little mom with her kids securely strapped in their car seats passes me in the emergency lane. don't you know i whipped in behind her so fast! i knew she would have the strongest desire in the world to get out of this mess. don't mess with a mama who has her babies!!! so "we" {me and my new friend -lol} wrangled our way thru the mess on the interstate. i could have reached my hand out my window and touched overturned, crumple cars. it was a disaster area. there were overturned 18 wheelers. it was insanity. pure insanity. i finally got to the exit i needed. i have never been soooooooo glad to see my house in my life. and it was all in one piece. no damage. i was elated to see my little house standing, looking fine!!! i was so unnerved at that point. i didn't know what to do with myself. my brother in law brought me a generator. i just wasn't capable of making any decisions--- stay in my house {my neighborhood was empty of my neighbors b/c of power being out, plus with the storm coming our way- and missing us by only 1/2 mile- lots had left for safer areas} all alone or go back out in the chaos of traffic and try to get back to my MIL's house. i finally exhausted myself into the decision to stay put. i just could not bring myself to getting back in the car. plus, i was worried i would get stuck in traffic with even less gas than before. it was a night of fitful rest. i stayed on the couch. i couldn't rest well. but, the sun finally came back up. and it was such a welcomed site! no power makes for a VERY dark night.
i wanted to make sure i captured my experience from that night before i forgot the details. i know this wasn't a very captivating post. i will post pics soon. and also recap the following days. it's exhausting to think about. my little city is devastated. but the sense of community is so refreshing. that will for sure be the silver lining. there are no barriers. people are just helping people. today in church, Fr Deasy reminded us, the storm did not discriminate. and in the efforts to help those affected, there is no discrimination. people are just hell bent on making those in need feel cared for. there is TOO much relief in some areas. can you believe that? so much food, help, supplies that there are actually signs around town and announcements on the radio that places that are helping are at capacity. praise GOD for that!!! and prayers to God that these efforts will not fade in the days to come. our people will need help for a long time to come. i pray that their needs continue to be met.

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