One Year Ago Today
In the almost 5 years that I have lived in our small town I have memorized its streets. It truly is a very small town and my daily run takes me through almost all of it. I wind up and down streets, I see the same people, same gardens, same cars, same dogs, same swing-sets. It’s all become familiar. Over time this little town has worked its way into my heart. I did not think I could ever be happy in barely-on-the-map kind of place. Maybe I was being snob, maybe it’s all the stereotypes that are southern small towns…or maybe it was simply that I did not understand a small town.
But I am married to a small town guy and this town is in his blood, it’s in his family’s blood. Exactly a year ago today a tornado blew through this town and destroyed it. Almost completely. All the familiar homes, stores, hotels, restaurants, churches were almost leveled. An unbelievable mess of twisted wires, bent metal, insulation blown everywhere…walls, roofs, windows torn from buildings. I am forever thankful that Justin’s mom and dad insisted we stay that night with them. God obviously used their fear of what was coming to keep us safe. We huddled in their basement all evening long. Bad weather continued throughout the evening and tornadoes were shown all over the radar. And then the weather man said the tornado was going through our town…”Get down! Take cover!” I don’t know that I’ve ever heard more chilling words. But we were safe. Safe in his parents basement, spared the horror or watching that dark funnel make its way towards our house, destroying everything in its path.
The next day we left his parents house to see what had become of our home. A neighbor had told us the front of the house was ok but we did not know what else we would find. I have never seen my husband cry but he cried that day. This was his town. The people he grew up with, their homes destroyed. A restaurant he always told me “was the place to go after games,” gone. The basketball courts he spent countless hours trying to perfect his game, gone. The football field where he cheered on his high school’s team, gone.
But what remained was our home. Our little yellow house stood perfectly unharmed. A few shingles missing, a couple dents from hail, some branches strewn across the yard, someone else’s cooler laying in our garden.
As I ran through town today I found myself reflecting on this day, last year. I remembered the wreckage. The eeriness of the tomb stones protruding from the ground, the trees that stood bare and naked, beheaded. The piles of brick, debris…my favorite little lane of trees that always gave me some much needed shade during my run wiped clean. And I thanked him profusely. I thanked him for his grace that day, his unmerited favor to us. He spared our home when he took so many others. He even took 8 lives that day. I remember saying to Justin. ”It doesn’t make sense. For some reason He decided to spare us this great pain today. No promise for tomorrow, but today He spared us.”
If you could drive through this town today you might not even realize there was a tornado. It’s amazing what people have accomplished in one year. Lost homes have been replaced by even prettier ones, the school has a brand new and beautiful football field. If you did not know how many trees there used to be, maybe you wouldn’t even notice the missing ones. People would never choose to receive new things through pain grief and loss but I have seen God’s goodness in this little town and I am thankful to have been able to live through it and to witness His provision. The time, the effort, the seriousness, the love, the devotion, the kindess people showed to each other the weeks and months following the tornado made me only appreciate this town and community all the more. Guess that’s why it was so fitting that the most popular fundraising shirt after the tornado said on the front- “Rebuilding the town that built me” and on the back- “You can’t keep a good town down.”