I took a break from blogging early last week for the following reasons:
1. I only got 5 hours of sleep on Sunday night.
2. I slept 10.5 hours on Monday night.
3. I was retaining 5 lbs of water during #1 and #2.
By Wednesday I was ready to write. However, that evening the 2nd worst tornado disaster in US history happened.
And "happened" isn't really a fair descriptor.
Think bigger than that. Think 148 separate tornadoes that left 339 people dead in 6 states. And 250 of those are from Alabama.
Now think smaller than that. Think one of those tornadoes touched down only 3 miles from my house and left this in its wake in my community.
I captured these images while volunteering with Operation Blessing which is providing hot meals to first responders, relief workers, and those families trying to salvage what's left of their property in Pratt City and Smithfield.
Some of you navigate your own meteorological demons like earthquakes or blizzards or hurricanes. Meanwhile, I grew up here where terms like wall cloud and hook echo simply meant hopping in the bathtub and waiting out the weather.
But this was different. For the first time I actually left home and huddled with neighbors at a makeshift storm shelter at my church. And in moments, lives were lost and homes were rubble and despair set up camp across the state.
I returned home and found no electricity, no cell service, and no clean water. I also found walls and a roof and trees exactly as I left them.
I didn't fully understand the storm's impact until driving to work the next day and passing the above neighborhoods. Suddenly they weren't just images on a newscast. They were the homes of moms I see at Wal-Mart and grandfathers I see at Lowe's and kids who play basketball at my church.
And the pink purse pictured at the top? It's storm debris I found in my yard.
Who's the little girl now missing her go-to accessory? Is she safe...scared...alive?
Despair has taken up residence across Alabama.
But he cannot stay. He is not welcome here.
Then young women will dance and be glad, young men and old as well. I will turn their mourning into gladness; I will give them comfort and joy instead of sorrow.
If you'd like to be a part of relief efforts, please consider a financial donation to any of the following who are just a sample of the organizations coordinating amazing efforts on the front lines:
- Operation Blessing
- Red Cross Mid-Alabama Region
- Birmingham Dream Center
- Alabama Baptist State Board of Missions
You can also visit Alabama Possible's Tornado Relief Page and learn about a variety of ways to give, serve, advocate and organize across the state.