I wanted to at least explain why I wasn’t shouting the release of my latest book from the rooftops on the day it dropped. The tornadoes that hit Alabama and other southern states last week also destroyed my parents’ house. They are both unharmed, and for that I am very thankful. I still went home to join my other siblings as we all converged on our parents’ home (tree-covered lot) to help remove the many massive oaks that fell on top of almost every single inch of their property.
I didn’t understand it when they told us on their cell phones that they had been trapped, though not in the house. When I got there, I saw what they meant. Those old, old trees with their height and many thick branches formed a blockade once they were down on the ground. The first day entailed a lot of straddling over or ducking under! Needless to say, after four days of hauling logs, limbs, and helping salvage personal items from what was left of the house, I was totally exhausted. And I had quite the farmer’s tan!
All in all, my family was blessed. My two nephews were a block away from 15th Street in Tuscaloosa, and if you’ve seen the footage, you know how close that was. My brother and his daughter were about to head to a neighbor’s basement when the storm hit. They were listening to the car radio, since their power had gone out, when it took out some of their neighbor’s places. Their car rocked and trees flew around them, but again, they were unharmed.
My parents will rebuild, and my family had a chance and a reason to express how much we love each other, but so many others are still hurting and devastated. Some have no insurance, while others have lost their loved ones. My heart breaks for the kids in Tuscaloosa who have searched and worked tirelessly for days on end then go to give blood when they have rested enough. Many of them were searching for survivors but hoping to find lost friends.
The University of Alabama simply said the semester was over. You can take the grade you have or schedule one final test with professors. This was an unprecedented act for the university and conveys just how much the student body was affected.
My prayers are with them all, from Tuscaloosa through Birmingham, past Ohatchee and all the way to the end of the path. The huge tornado stayed on the ground for a record-breaking number of miles. So, so many were hurt in some way.
On a final note. The volunteers. I have never seen such selfless behavior. Whether it was showing up with a chainsaw or a tractor, handing out water and sandwiches, or taking on the daunting task of search and rescue, the locals and some people from counties away showed up in droves. Without them, recovery wold have taken so much longer to get started. It made my heart swell. They were amazing, and angels every one.
My family likes to joke about the fact that I’m not a huge sports fan. They wonder why I roll my eyes when they start talking football. I’ve never been one to wear the shirts or hats, and my car has no bumper stickers, but for the first time in my life, I have a very real reason to feel connected to those that do. It is with tears and my eyes and thankfulness in my heart that I say with all the love that I have…