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Saw the Tornado Disaster

Posted by on May. 24, 2013 at 5:26 PM
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I went to the tornado area yesterday to volunteer with a church disaster team. They didn't send us to the area that was hard hit - they have major disaster crews working there -  but to a trailer park in a peripheral area, where windows were blown out and roofing and papers and pieces of people's lives scattered everywhere.

Earlier, on my way to the work site, I had to drive past  houses in the tornado's path. Big houses that sat on foundations. They looked like someone put had put them in a blender and pushed the "on" button. I got lost, and in the bumper-to-bumper traffic pulled off the road to ask a man in a construction-type trailer for directions. The parking lot had been taken over by some big company that clears disaster areas. The man was from Texas, and didn't know where he was, either.

Utility trucks trying to restore power stuck out in traffic, narrowing the flow to one lane. National Guardsmen stood at side roads near barricades, keeping vehicles out. I called out to a guy getting back in his jeep. "Can I turn right at the next light?" 

He said he thought I could. And I crept along, inching my way toward where I hoped I would find my volunteer group.

After I had checked in at the church and signed a release of liability, I finally got onto the right road. Again, traffic was going at a snail's pace. A state trooper in a "Smokey" hat put his hand up. He was stopping every car, mine included. "Where you headed?"

I showed him my directions, and said I was turning off at a work site to volunteer.

"Good luck," he said. But the tone of his voice told me, "Lady, you have no idea."

On the grassy area between the trailers I found a page from someone's yearbook, a program from a play in which the people had '70s hair styles. And puzzle pieces and lots and lots of insulation and tar paper. The roofing I picked up looked like kindling, or shredded sticks. A square of board about eight or ten inches penetrated the ground as though someone had hurled it and it stuck there, one corner facing up. It took two of us to wedge it loose.

At supper time, a local restaurant came around with boxed meals and drinks. One of the guys who hopped out of the car with the dinners told us how the previous night at sunset, the sky had glistened with glittery sparkles. Asbestos. 

I felt like I was in a toxic waste dump.

Where were the people who had lived there? Did they get out in time? 

They were all out of surgical masks when I got there, but I was lucky enough to have a piece of fabric in the back seat of my car - an old sheet I used to cover the back seat.  I ripped it with my teeth to make a mouth and nose covering. When I took my white bandana off, a round, brown area indicated where my mouth had been.

I cleared an area smaller than my living room. It was like putting a band-aid on a train wreck. I only hope that volunteers keep coming, next week, and next month, until they get it all cleaned up. 

And I hope that the people of this state, and everywhere along "tornado alley," demand a plan: public tornado shelters, safe rooms, and safe places for all their children at school and daycare centers when it happens again. Because it probably will.

As soon as I got home I stripped out of my clothes. I threw everything I had on in the washer and took a hot shower.  I can't imagine what the victims are going through.

This area is south of where the tornado actually touched down. So it was not in it's direct path. In those areas, where houses are just piles of broken sticks, it will take more than a few volunteers to clean up.


Above, two young volunteers eat supper of fried chicken and bread, delivered by a local restaurant.

Below, that's me holding a couple of makeshift  mouth-coverings that I tried to give away. 

by on May. 24, 2013 at 5:26 PM
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Replies (1-3):
by Red Room Rebel on May. 24, 2013 at 5:36 PM

That is aweful. My heart goes out to those affected...

by Wanda - Indian Girl on May. 24, 2013 at 6:17 PM

Thank you for sharing yourself with these familys....You will be blessed

by 40ish hang out queen on May. 24, 2013 at 7:18 PM

 I'm sure the people that live there appreciate all that you are doing..what a thing to experience..

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