This morning, I am sitting in a house.
This morning, I woke up in my own bed.
This morning, my life is pretty normal.
That is not the case for thousands of people here in the state of Alabama.
Last Wednesday, April 27, 2011, a series of tornadoes ripped across the southeast. Alabama was hit the hardest. Many towns were wiped off the map. There is a staggering loss of life. The number of people injured is in the thousands. The number of people who lost everything they own is even higher. It's hard to wrap your mind around just how bad it really is here in Alabama. One of my sweet friends put it this way: "The pictures you're seeing in the media don't do it justice. It's like watching a G-rated version of a triple X movie."
There is a huge effort to help those who have been affected. Support is rolling in from places all around the country. People are donating their time to help complete strangers. People are buying supplies to donate like nothing I've ever seen. My family has even bought items twice since Thursday to drop off and try to do just a little bit to help. My little bit of stuff seems like a drop in the bucket, but I know that when they put my stuff with five other people's stuff, then it makes a bigger difference.
I sat and watched the local weather guys forecast and alert people all day last Wednesday. They were on the air ALL DAY. I don't know when or if they ate or got to take a bathroom break. I don't know how their voices didn't give out. I watched them diligently track these storms, and I watched them throw up their hands, looking completely befuddled, as they saw the meteorological evidence that told them this would be the worst storms they've ever seen. I even heard one of them say that he'd be praying that it wouldn't be as bad as it showed. You know you're in trouble when the weatherman is praying.
I watched the coverage. I saw the Cullman tornado and then the Tuscaloosa tornado as they were caught on the station's tower cam. I sat with my mouth gaping open and felt the tears well up in my eyes. I'd seen pictures of tornadoes before, but had never seen one 'live'. You could tell by the size that it was going to leave a horrific scene in it's wake. As I watched the debris flying through the air, I thought of all the things that could be caught up in that thrashing cloud. As it turns out, many things were caught up in that violent wind. Things were picked up in Tuscaloosa and were deposited somewhere in St. Clair county, some 75+ miles away.
Somewhere along the way, I began to feel that Alabama was deeper in my heart than I originally suspected. Now, Alabama has always been a part of my life; my parents are both natives. Both sides of my family still reside in the same general area and I spent several summers of my youth playing and visiting with relatives. I was taught from an early age that Alabama football is second to making sure you're in church on Sunday morning. I spent the majority of my youth being raised near Atlanta, Georgia. I'm a Georgia Peach. However, I'm feeling a kinship like never before with the people of this state. I feel like I'm a part of something bigger than myself. I feel like I'm in a position to make a difference and I feel better equipped to do something here.
I know I can't make everyone realize how bad it is here in Alabama right now. I know I can't help everyone I want to help. But I know that I can work together with those who love Alabama like I now do and we can all make a difference.
You know, one of the neatest things about all this disaster and tragedy is that people who normally say hateful, awful things about each other are coming together on a united front. The people of Auburn University are heading up and mounting a gargantuan task on Facebook to help the people in Tuscaloosa, as well as other storm-ravaged communities. If you're not aware, Tuscaloosa is home to the University of Alabama, Auburn's fiercest rival. To say the teams are arch-rivals doesn't begin to scratch the surface. These teams loathe each other and play for bragging rights every November. The winners sneer in the face of the loser for the next twelve months. However, we're putting all that aside for now and we're looking at the fact that we're all Alabamians. It's heartwarming in a small, weird way.
I feel like this post has been very incoherent and like I've been rambling. I just needed to get it out. Somehow, some way, God will be glorified through this horrible mess.