So unless you’ve been living under a rock, you know that parts of Alabama were recently decimated by tornadoes. But I’m guessing you already know that, because if you are clueless due to rock inhabitation, then how are you reading my blog right now?
Anyway, I think most of you also know this, but I live in Alabama, specifically Birmingham–one of the cities that was hardest hit. Our family is fine. Our house is fine. We are very, very blessed. But here’s how it went down.
We knew that severe weather was predicted for Wednesday. I usually don’t know ANYTHING because I hate the news, but even I knew that. So when we were awakened by sirens at 5:15 AM on Wednesday morning, we took it seriously. We turned on the TV (because sometimes the sirens are going off because your county is in danger, but not necessarily your part of the county). We seemed “in the clear” so we laid back down, but left the TV on. About 10 minutes later, I heard the newscaster say, “if you are between downtown and Alabaster, get to your safe place now”. I said, “that’s us. we have to wake the boys”. We shot up in bed and grabbed the kids. Isaac chose 3 cuddly toys to accompany him (and took his sweet time about it too). I scooped up Matthew and he said, “tomato sirens??”. We went down to our basement stairwell and I brought my netbook and ipod touch so they could play games. They weren’t scared at all. I was kind of scared, but also thought it was just a precaution. As the wind got loud, I felt an overwhelming maternal urge to lay on top of my children. But I didn’t want to freak them out. I casually asked if anyone wanted to sit in my lap. Matthew was deep in an Angry Birds session, and he declined. I think Isaac took pity on me and climbed in my lap and I tried to wrap myself around him as best as I could. As far as I can tell you, the scary noises seemed like they only lasted about 3 minutes. We stayed in the stairwell until the weatherman said we could leave, which wasn’t long. Our power was out and we had some large limbs down in our yard, but we weren’t concerned.
I started packing lunches and getting the boys ready for school (by candlelight). No school closings were reported, so Jason left to take Matthew to school. He called me shortly after telling me that there were 2 trees across the road right near our house. And the traffic lights were all out. At Matthew’s school, it was a madhouse. They had no power and were sending everyone home. Jason came home another route (that I told him not to go, because it is a neighborhood full of old trees and I knew it would probably be bad), and it was way, way worse. On the way to Isaac’s school, they called me to tell me they had no power and I passed even more downed trees.
At 8:30, I called my mom to check on her. She answered and when I asked if she was okay, she said, yes, I just woke up, but I think we may have had some bad weather.
You think? (sigh)
I had a dentist appointment that morning and called their office. They are located in my old neighborhood that we left in August. Where my mom still lives. They had calls forwarded to a cell phone and told me that they couldn’t even get to their office for all the trees. I later heard that area was like a “war zone” and now I am beginning to see pictures and hear stories and it seems to be true. That neighborhood is devastated.
So my aunt was lucky and she still had power and near her house, everything was business as usual, which was just weird because just a few miles away, everything was trashed. So I took the boys there and got some coffee at Arbys, and went to the mall of all places because we are getting family pictures taken on Saturday and of course I am trying to coordinate us all, and can’t find a shirt for Jason. Anyway, all the while we are hearing that the worst is yet to come and that another weather system is coming through that evening.
We decided to stay at my aunt’s since she had power and since their place had fared so well. She is in a 3 story townhome on a huge hill that looks over the entire city…maybe even the whole county (remember that info for later). Jason came there from work and brought our dog and I fed the kids early because I knew we would be hunkering down in the dinner hour. We were glued to the TV and watched the mile wide tornado decimate Tuscaloosa. That’s when it got scary, because you couldn’t watch it happening without thinking to yourself: anybody in that is dead. I don’t care how safe your safe place is. And we knew it was coming our way.
I was freakishly calm. We all were. I made everybody put their shoes on. I was thinking that once it was over, if we could still walk, if we were still alive, we would be walking through glass. We brought down electronic games for the boys and a bowl of snacks. My aunt and I conspired to wrap them in foam mattresses and stuff them in a broom closet if and when it was about to strike. Jason and my uncle stayed upstairs watching TV and looking out the window. Waiting. I thought to myself, if we die, it will be fast. We will all go together. I know where we will spend eternity. This will be okay.
After the tornado left Tuscaloosa, it moved north of where we were. Not much north, but we at least began to understand that it wasn’t coming AT us. The men called us upstairs because you could see it out the windows (remember the incredible miles-long view they have at their house). We watched it go from west to east. It sat on downtown Birmingham for a while. I couldn’t believe the high rises were still standing.
Then it was gone. We got the all-clear. Amazingly we still had power. We sat down and ate dinner and let the boys watch a DVD. It was eerily normal, but we all knew that terrible things were happening. And not far from us. We sat down to watch the news, and heard an anchor call in from a community called Pratt City. She was almost hysterical. She kept saying I’m sorry, I’ve never seen anything like this. Please pray, please pray. That’s when we knew it was gonna be bad.
And it is.
Parts of Tuscaloosa are decimated. Leveled.
Over 200 are dead in our state alone and that number is only rising.
So many people have lost everything. Every. Single. Thing.
You’ve seen the pictures on the news. I haven’t taken many (some blogger I am). I do regret not getting a shot of the tornado going across the skyline, but whatever. I drove around yesterday in our neighborhood and took some pictures.
As you can see, some trees were broken in half
and some were pulled up by the roots
some were on power lines
and some had already been cut up
When I went a little farther, I came to an area that was so devastated, the roads kept getting re-routed. Trees everywhere, and the power lines looked like cooked spaghetti that had been thrown up in the air and landed all over the place. I was too frazzled to pull out my camera.
In the end, the worst thing that happened to us was being without power for 36 hours and having to chunk everything in the refrigerator/freezer.
In the end, I looked at it as a good reason to attack the fridge with Clorox wipes and get all new condiments–there’s no telling how old some of them were.
I spent all morning restocking and now we are good to go.
It is very sobering that all we suffered was a bunch of spoiled food, considering this picture we saw taken from our old neighborhood.
That is the street we lived on (we moved to our new home in August). We can’t see our house in this picture (we should be able to, but there is too much debris), but the brown house is our old neighbor’s house. Either our old home is gone or it is covered up in trees. Scary stuff.
So we are back to normal, whatever that means. For now, normal is going to be offering hot showers and hot meals to friends with no power. Normal is going to be gathering donation items for tornado relief. I have to admit, it stings to hear everyone abuzz about the Royal Wedding and the stupid birth certificate debacle (don’t even get me STARTED on that one) when there are people in our city requesting boxes because they are walking around trying to pick up their belongings.
If you want to help, but you are not local, donating money is probably the best thing you can do. Here are some reputable agencies you can donate through that will be working with our communities.
Church of the Highlands–our church has campuses in both Birmingham and Tuscaloosa and will be working with both communities in the aftermath. You can specify in your donation and it will go specifically to tornado relief.
Even more importantly are your prayers. So many affected, so much to pray for. So much to be thankful for.
Thank you to everyone who checked in on us, worried about us, and prayed for us. We felt your love.