Saturday, April 30, 2011

Tornado Follow-Up.....after seeing the images completely.

I am stunned.  Absolutely shaking-my-head, unimaginably stunned.  I have just seen Brian Williams' report on MSNBC.  Everyone, it seems, has made their way to Alabama.  They've shown us all the images of houses that once were, of acres of trees that once dotted the landscape, of peoples lives in ruins.  The homes were torn from their foundations and reduced to mere splinters in a matter of seconds.  Trees that were one or two feet in diameter were plucked from their roots, torn in half, and thrown across the horizon with unparalleled ease.  It simply picked them up and threw them with no regard for what lay in their path.  Cars were placed on top of other cars or thrown, haphazardly, where the wind chose to toss them.  Most of all, if you look closely enough, you can actually see the winds picking up and plucking the soul of so many lives and scattering it across the landscape.  Amazing.  Horribly, terribly amazing.  When the storm got to Birmingham, it had not weakened.  The mountainous hill behind our home was the only thing between us and the storm.  It dropped it's debris on us, but tore through the areas less than two miles away.  The 'freight train' sound?  Yeah, it happens.....and you do NOT want to hear it.  Like I said, I am a thrill-seeker....and feel I was close enough to have the 'Been There, Done That' t-shirt.  I don't want to do it again.  I will admit, though, if you dig lightning, this was the storm for it.

My daughter asked me what people will do.  How will they survive and how will they rebuild?  How will they ever get their lives back.  The only answer I could give, initially, was, "I don't know."  Then, after a few seconds, I told her how it would be done.  You see, these are a proud people.  The people of Alabama, as I have come to realize, are Americans at heart and prouder, still, of their state.  It is what I love about this place.  I've made the trip south after years living in other locations - first in PA, then 20 years in VA.  I have been in Alabama for 5 years and live here happily.  Yes, I do (along with many of you) poke fun at times, I'll admit.  In times like this, though, you realize what it means to be in the heart of the South.  This, my friends, is Dixie.  It's taken many years to understand but I now do.  I watched as Brian Williams asked a man, Mr Shelly, what happened that day.  Mr Shelly had gone to the Piggly Wiggly (see how easy it is to make fun?) grocery store.  He was leaving and headed home when the local manager of a pharmacy (called Mr Shelly by his name, mind you) and told him to come inside his store where they immediately went to the basement.  Five minutes later, the storm struck with all it's vengeance.  It absolutely destroyed this college town.  After recounting his story, Brian asked what he will do.  "I'll keep praying and we'll take care of it."  Quite simply, THAT is how it will be done.  These working class people will get up, begin removing the rubble, help their neighbors, and keep moving and praying.  They believe in God and know that they can and will help each other survive.  It is a throwback to the days of small towns and neighborhoods where everyone looked out for, cared for, and helped each other.  Sadly, in between rebuilding, they will hold funerals and wakes.  They will honor and bury those whose lives were lost this day.  They will vow to never forget....and they won't.  Somehow, these proud Americans living in Alabama will vow to honor their lost neighbors....and they will.  They will speak a bit more kindly, love a bit more gently, care a bit more less reservedly.  They will not forget the day the largest, strongest tornadoes seen in any of their lives came rumbling and tearing through their town.  They will remember.....but they will not let it change who they are.  That's not who they are.

I have figured out that Alabamians do not want to be remembered nor defined by this storm.  They would care to be remembered for many other things....but not this.  When you think of Alabama, they want you to think of two universities, two NCAA Championships (back to back), with two Heisman Trophy winners.  We want you to remember the Bear.  Bear Bryant, whose teams in years past kept the state in the forefront while winning his 6 National Titles.  The USS Alabama, George Wallace, fighting for Civil Rights, marching from Selma, Rosa Parks, and yes, even Forrest Gump.  Remember Alabama for anything and everything....just not this storm.  Believe me when I tell you, "The South Will Rise Again!" is not just a phrase.  They live it...and mean it.  We appreciate and will accept the help.  We will, in times when needed, reciprocate as well.  Please, though, do not remember us solely for this Storm  It will not define us.  We will define us.....and the storm will be a mere footnote by the time we are finished.  I am proud to live here, want my daughter to go to college here (for the tickets....yes) and invite you all to come share the State with us.  For now, though, please bring a shovel and some trash bags.  We got us some cleanin' to do......but once we get it straight, I think you'll find you really like it here......

Until next time.....

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