Last Wednesday after the first Facebook accounts came in, I spent much of the afternoon checking the weather in Alabama. My parents and sister live in Madison County, and I went to school and worked in Tuscaloosa for eight years. At one point, Madison County had three separate tornado warnings, one heading towards my parents’ town, another towards my sister’s city. And then, of course, came the first videos from Tuscaloosa. It was a most horrible day.
But then came spots of good news, both big and small. My parents and sister were fine, one lost tree in the back yard and no electricity. But fine. Slowly but surely, Facebook posts started coming in from my friends in Alabama. They too had made it through the storms with their lives and most of their property. A friend’s 90-year-old mother-in-law crouched in her hallway while the house basically blew away around her, but she was physically unhurt. One man was hurt in a morning tornado and brought to the hospital in Tuscaloosa, just in time for the second one to hit. In the first tornado, this man’s son was actually blown out of the house. But all survived.
Of course, there were stories that had no good news. According to one of the doctors at the Tuscaloosa hospital, the first two victims brought in were infants. As of Sunday, there were still many people who had not been located. And people are trying to pick up the pieces with very few resources. Almost all of Madison County was without electricity through the weekend–which also meant they were without gasoline and other basic goods (although stores, like Publix put bread, batteries, etc. out on the sidewalk for people to pick up).
What always strikes me about situations like these is the amount of resilience that people show during such tragedies. Folks who literally had their homes blown away around them talked about how lucky they were to escape death. Through tears, one woman whose home was gone expressed sympathy for those who weren’t so lucky: the injured and dead.
Tornadoes have a bizarre capriciousness all their own. They can destroy five houses in a row and then leave one untouched. They can jump back in the clouds, or they can stay on the ground for more than 80 miles. They bear down on a place only to make a sudden turn and leave everyone unscathed, physically if not mentally. Although it is wrong to ascribe emotions to natural events, I always think of tornadoes as slightly crazy, striking randomly with no forethought.
Horrible tragedies like this always remind me of the saying: Life is so hard, how can we be anything but kind to one another? None of us knows when tragedy or pain can strike. unexpectedly. We’re all vulnerable. So why make life harder than it is by being unnecessarily rigid and demanding on others?
So for this week, help out those victims in East Tennessee or Alabama. Or help those who are still suffering from last year’s flood here in Nashville. And be kind.