Alabama’s Recurring Nightmare.

Thank you all for your concerned tweets, comments, emails, and Facebook messages yesterday.

We are okay.

Living in Alabama, as much as I adore it otherwise, is beginning to feel like a nasty game of Tornado Roulette.

Just the mention of tornadoes has a vastly different impact on me (and most likely the rest of the state) than it did before last April. Combine that anxiety with knowing an entire day beforehand that a potentially severe tornado outbreak is coming in the middle of the night, and it becomes nearly beyond bearable.

They began talking Sunday morning about what was to come between midnight and 6 AM. We were driving back from Atlanta, and we began to dread the night.

I laid in bed for hours Sunday night, wide awake, mind racing about a dozen different things, but with an ever-present anxiety over what could happen in the coming hours.

I finally fell asleep somewhere after 1 AM.

At 3 AM, the tornado sirens began blaring. Chris’ weather radio app began beeping loudly. And the wind began howling.

Chris started watching the satellite radar on his phone. Being that I had only been asleep for two hours, I somehow stayed in that bizarre state of not-awake-but-not-asleep, even though it seemed like they had set the sirens to some sort of tortuous yet merciful continuous repeat cycle.

Chris stayed awake for two hours, eyes glued to his iPhone screen. Our weather radio app has street-level drill down capabilities, so he was able to watch in detail as the EF-3 tornado progressed through the county.

Knowing that he would wake me if we needed to run to the basement, I somehow managed to keep half-dozing.

As it came toward us, we were within two streets of being included in what is known as The Polygon, which is the area of possible tornado track. Just as Chris was ready to jump up, grab Ali and tell me to grab Noah, the tornado jogged northeast.

He went back to sleep at 5, only to be woken again at 6:30 by his phone ringing. I listened in my grogginess to murmured phone call after phone call.

The tornado had hit the street that his office is on.

The power was out, but the building was okay.

Some of the employees who live closer to the office than we do were trapped in their neighborhoods by debris and trees.

Main roads were completely inaccessible.

I listened to his end of the calls through my grogginess.

No, no, no!! Why do we have to go through this again?

This just isn’t supposed to happen in January. This isn’t supposed to happen in January!!

After the kids and I woke up, ate breakfast, and finished our morning routines, I began to look at the local news.

The imageschilled me.

Although I haven’t been able to get out to any of the damaged areas myself, my television screen has been filled with sights like this,

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And this.

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Just like last time, just a mere twenty minutes away from our house.

The stories made me bite my lip to hold back the tears.

…A father and son, yanked out of their house and deposited into the family’s swimming pool – they lived through it. The mother, severely injured but alive, was buried under debris. The sixteen year old daughter, still on her mattress, eyes closed as if still peacefully asleep, was found dead 40 feet away from their house.

The damage was not nearly as widespread as it was nine months ago, but to those hit, it was just as devastating.

So far, three are known to have lost their lives.

Over a hundred were injured.

Countless houses were lost, businesses were destroyed, and neighborhoods were ravaged.

And they are still digging through the debris.

I groaned at the thought of reliving it all over again.

But I was also thankful.

Thankful that it wasn’t as bad as it could have been.

Thankful that so many lives were saved by the plentiful warnings ahead of time.

Thankful that Alabama knows how to handle tornadoes and that so many are already jumping into action.

So very thankful that my family, yet again, was safe.

James Spann captured my feelings best with this fabulous photo.

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Though the destruction is great, our hope is greater.


For those of you who have asked how you can help, here are a few ways:

1. Keep praying!! Your notes that you were praying for Alabama meant so much.

– Pray that if there are any more survivors in the rubble, they would be found and helped immediately.
– Pray for the families that have lost everything as they try to cope with their new reality.
– Pray for the recovery workers’ strength and safety.

2. The Christian Service Mission has done such an excellent job at providing immediate and practical help to Alabamians in need, so I set up a Causes page to allow anyone to make donations directly to them. They were the backbone of the last tornado relief efforts, and they are already stepping up to do more than their share of recovery again. Since they are locally based and do not have large amounts of overhead, supporting them goes a long way toward helping the community.

Specifically for other Alabamians wanting to help:

1. If you blog about your experience with this week’s or last April’s tornadoes and link it here, the Alabama Disaster Relief Blogging Program will donate $25 to the Christian Service Mission.

2. I’m sure there are many churches offering support and relief, but the one I know of so far is Northpark Baptist Church on Deerfoot Parkway. As of yesterday afternoon, they were in immediate need of Water, Snacks, and Plywood.

3. If you have goods to donate to the Christian Service Mission, they will be accepting them at their downtown warehouse starting tomorrow. You can also like their Facebook Page to keep up to date with their needs.

I will update this list if I hear of other opportunities.

Thank you all for your kindness and support!

Christmas, Eight Months Later.

April 27.

Two hundred and eleven tornadoes – in one day.

Two hundred and forty three deaths – in Alabama alone.

Six months have come and gone since that horrific day that forever changed our state.

And, even though it felt like it wouldn’t, life goes on.  But not without it’s scars.

So many people’s lives were destroyed that day.  They lost family members, houses, jobs, schools, and had their belongings spread quite literally throughout the southeast.

And yes, there’s insurance.  But insurance isn’t easy, insurance isn’t enough, and insurance doesn’t replace lives.

Although we personally only had minimal damage, seeing others hurt so significantly from the storms definitely made it’s impact on our family.

At the breakfast table the other day, after finishing up saying the blessing, Ali elaborated on why she had prayed for us to have a good day.

“Sometimes I ask God that we can have a good day, because I don’t want there to be any tornadoes…and I don’t want God to forget.”

I know that taking Ali to see the devastation forever changed her life and mindset.  She has a sense of anxiety about natural disasters that she was previously oblivious to.  And I know that she, like me, lives with the fear of another horror-film-worthy day.  But it has also instilled in her a new level of tenderheartedness.

She especially remembers the library.  Every time we go to her nice, pretty, undamaged library, she recalls seeing this one:

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“Mommy, the kids in Pratt City don’t have their library any more, do they?”

Because of her visit to Pratt City, Ali has a tender heart for the children that lost so much, and I want to help her foster that compassion and teach her how to use it to bless others.

So, after Build-A-Bear sent me the bears to give to random strangers which turned into such an amazing experience for Ali, I asked them if they would like to help provide gifts for children who lost everything in the tornadoes.

They quickly replied, and shocked me with their generosity.

“All we can send right now is 25 bears – would that be enough?”

Um, yes!!  How awesome!

Soon afterward, Two giant boxes of a delightful mixture of bears were delivered to my doorstep.

To allow Ali and her friends to have a part in blessing their tornado-stricken neighbors, we had a Bear Condo Decorating Party.

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We talked about the kids that lost all of their stuffed animals,

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Explained that they had the opportunity to be a blessing to these children,

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And set them to work meticulously coloring the Bear Condos.

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They asked questions about where the kids were living,

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and they talked about what it would mean to have their house hit by a tornado.

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After they finished, they took great joy in picking out the specific bear they wanted to gift in their masterpiece of a box.

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We will be delivering these bears for distribution to Alberta Baptist Church:

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…or at least that’s what it used to look like, before April 27th, where it was in the direct line of attack.

Alberta Baptist 2(Thanks to Mary Kathryn of Mathews Family Happenings for sharing these photos)

Despite their own destruction, the faithful members of Alberta Baptist are tirelessly serving their community, a community which needs help desperately – this photo only captures a tiny slice of their damage:

Alberta City

It could have been us.

I don’t know if our state will ever fully recover from that day, but I am thankful for the opportunity to help Ali contribute a tiny bit to that cause.

Twenty Minutes Away.

We took Ali with us today to have the opportunity to give away some of her toys, and to help serve our community.

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We fixed Hot Dogs, Hamburgers, and served BBQ donated by Jim N Nick’s to tornado victims and volunteers.

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And I am not naive in thinking that what Ali saw today won’t give her nightmares or make her afraid of storms,

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But she needs to understand.

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That a mere twenty minutes from our house, children can’t go to the library anymore.

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And they can’t go home anymore.

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And they can’t play at their friend’s houses anymore.

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She needs to understand why Mommy is busy helping “tornado people” and can’t play with her sometimes.

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She needs to understand how blessed she is,

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And how great her desire to help others should be.

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And above everything, I want her to understand the heart of those suffering much.

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