First, I want to say a big thank you for your prayers. I am planning to write a more specific thank you post later, but I wanted you to know that prayers are helping us get through this. Also, our damage is nothing compared to those who lost everything. We are very blessed, and I haven’t forgotten that. I’ve had so much guilt for even talking about our house when there are those much worse off than we are. Still, it was a terrifying experience, and writing about it is helping me move past all the bad.
Here’s where things get a little jumbled in my memory. I’m not convinced I have the order of these things correct. After Bailey Puppy and I moved to the laundry room, M went into panic mode. The funny thing is, my husband doesn’t panic. This was the most panicked I’ve ever seen him, and to a random stranger, he probably still seemed calm. He didn’t cry, scream, shake or anything like that. Instead, he rushed around throwing things in a backpack and a small suitcase. He got our tennis shoes from the garage so our feet would be protected. I remember him muttering little phrases as he was walking around with the flashlight. Things like “if we need to get out” and “need batteries” and “phone’s gonna die” and “clothes for you”. When he joined us in the laundry room, his suitcase had a towel, a pair of jeans, and a roll of toilet paper. The backpack had lighters and batteries. It’s a little humorous to think about now. Of course, he was trying his hardest to protect us, and I was no help. All I could do was sit in the laundry room floor holding Bailey and cry and shake and threaten to throw up. Rain was pouring down on our battered roof the entire time. It dawned on me that we couldn’t leave if we had to because our cars and garage floor was covered with shattered glass and the garage door was sucked in and twisted. That thought caused me to panic even more. I was convinced we were trapped. In reality, the house was still standing all around us – battered considerably but still standing.
I finally let M go outside to check on neighbors when I thought it was safe. Looking back, I regret not letting him go sooner. Thankfully, no one was hurt or injred, but he could have helped if anyone had been. He knocked and knocked on our next door neighbor’s door before he finally decided she wasn’t at home. I eventually joined him outside once more neighbors started coming out of there houses. It was wonderful to see that they were okay and we weren’t so alone. The destruction of our neighborhood sickened me at the time. It still does, but I’ve seen much worse neighborhoods in the past week that are even more sickening. I didn’t comprehend that anything could be worse than what I was seeing.
Debris littered our street. Roofs were missing shingles. Fences were down. Playsets were crumpled into piles of splintered wood. Patio furniture, grills, and childrens’ toys were in yards where they didn’t belong. Large pieces of tin and siding were everywhere. We all stood in our yards not knowing what to do. We had heard a rumor from somewhere that the subdivision next to us was completely gone. It looked fine from where we stood, but we were worried about a family from church and one of M’s friends. I stood in a neighbor’s yard tearfully begging M not to leave me. He said he had to go. I told him to be back in five minutes as he took off in a sprint through backyards to the next neighborhood. I heard murmers that another storm was coming. Those 5 minutes M was gone were the longest of the night. I had decided to go after him, but thankfully he came back with a good report. He never found that family’s house, but he said only a couple of houses were mildly damaged. The street behind us in our subdivision was a different story. Three or four houses were essentially destroyed. While M was gone, a group of men left to go check on the people in those houses. They also came back with a good report. I walked around saying thank you, thank you when I heard that people were okay.
The sky begin to darken once again, so we all went back inside. I finally remembered that my iPod speakers also had a radio that would run on battery. From it we learned that there was a possible tornado heading our way once again. M, Bailey, and I huddled in the laundry room and prayed. I sang the song “For You have promised, and I believe”. This storm wasn’t nearly as powerful – it went away from us and didn’t cause damage. After we got the all clear, M went out to the garage to begin sweeping up glass. I managed to make it out of the laundry room to gather some bottled water, a few clothes, and my Bible to put in the suitcase. My legs were wobbly and I felt sick, so back to the safe place I went. There were one or 2 more tornado warnings for us and a severe thunderstorm warning. My husband was wonderful in between these storms. I was useless. We heard on the radio that the severe weather threat would soon in for the night for us. Those were precious, welcome words. M continued to clean up glass and I went outside to talk to neighbors. Someone told me the police had been around and told us that we weren’t allowed to leave for the night because of all the debris in the roads and flooding. My sister had called to tell me my parents were leaving to come pick us up. I began to worry about their safety.
A few hours after the tornado hit, my parents made it to our house. Mom beat on the front door and yelled my name with the sound of tears in her voice. That first hug made everything a little better. There was a man I didn’t know and a truck I didn’t recognize. Mom explained that the police wouldn’t let her turn onto the road our subdivision is off of. Mom told the police officer that they couldn’t keep her from me. My loving, wonderful parents parked and walked 2 miles before that nice couple picked them up and brought them the rest of the way to me. That’s love. M and dad started to put trash bags over our broken windows and our next door neighbor’s windows. Mom and I cleaned out the fridge and freezer. A couple hours later, we loaded up my car and left our battered little house. We took dad back to where he had parked the truck then went to get gas. The abnormally long lines at the gas station were the first inkling we had that things were not okay in the rest of Alabama.
We made it safely to my childhood home and settled in on an air mattress my future brother-in-law brought for us to use. I don’t remember if I slept or how much I slept that night. I do know I went to bed with a heavy yet thankful heart. We had survived. We were okay.