Just Look...

Just Look...

Saturday, June 25, 2011


Very interesting line from the book I just finished: "When you're young, you always think you'll meet all sorts of wonderful people, that drifting apart and losing friends is natural. You don't worry, at first, about the friends you leave behind. But as you get older, it gets harder to build friendships. Too many defenses, too little opportunity. You get busy. And by the time you realize that you've lost the dearest best friend you've ever had, years have gone by and you're mature enough to be embarrassed by your attitude and, frankly, by your arrogance."

I am kind of intrigued by several aspects of that passage. First of all, by the ... naivete and somehow also arrogance of youth. That idea that the world holds the promises of so much and there are all kinds of people out there to meet, just waiting on you. The quick tendency to disregard friendships and people... in favor of the next best thing. The fact of the matter is, friendships take lots of work and young people are often not willing to give them what it takes to make them flourish.

The other point is the way friendships become harder to both form and keep when you are older. I love the line "too many defenses, too little opportunity". Age clogs up things in so many ways, while it also clears things up in others. We become, I think, more hindered by past hurts and situations, in some ways more self-conscious, while we also start to see the things that really matter. As teens, the things that seemed so important (looks, popularity, athletic prowess) fade in favor of someone to laugh with and someone who understands you.

Just some random thoughts I have had. I love that passage from The Friday Night Knitting Club and wanted to think aloud (in print) about it. :)

Friday, June 17, 2011

The Day Everything Changed in Cleveland, TN

I am a little late in writing about this, but I wanted to get it down before it left my mind completely. I think I'll start with telling the story, then reflect, then maybe list some things. (I think that last sentence is EXACTLY what I tell my students NOT to do...)

The day started with us being taken into the hall shortly after first period began. Thankfully, I had my iPad and was able to keep the radar up, which made me feel much better. Even if it's bad news, knowing is so much less frightening to me than NOT knowing! I didn't have my class roll because we were in the library, and I asked Mike if there was a need to go get it, to which he replied, "Yes, you probably better." I joked to someone that it's almost like he thought we might need it to identify bodies, not knowing at the time how close to the truth that statement would be by the next day. We spent the majority of the morning in the hall, hearing rumors of a tornado wiping out a trailer park in extreme southern Bradley County. I honestly wasn't even very afraid, just nervous about the girls at Mayfield. However, knowing Mom was there made it much better.

We dismissed school around 12, so I got the girls from Grandmother and headed home. Word was that there was another wave coming around 2 or 3. We had not been home long when Kraig called and said they had moved them all downstairs and that we should get the basement. I did think to make sure we all had on socks and tennis shoes, and I took blankets and a couple of pillows downstairs. I got the girls settled in, then ran up to look out the front door. Hail, baseball sized (no kidding) was slamming all over the yard and the field. The sky looked... green. And the thunder wasn't even thunder, it was just groaning. Very odd. The lightening was not very noticable at that point. I went back down to the basement and we waited it out. Even at that point, I wasn't very concerned. I did put up a fb status that said, "Watching the girls skate around the basement singing 'If I Die Young' combined with my fear of storms is not doing much for my nerves right now." It was after that one that I first saw some pictures of a friend's house off Frontage Road. At that time, in my perspective of then, they looked AWFUL! It blew her windows out and sucked her basement door off! Limbs and fencing was everywhere. We stayed down a while, then went back up. I called Kraig around 5 and told him to hurry home, but stop and get supper. Shortly after that call, we heard that a third wave was on the way.

I knew Kraig needed to pull in the garage in case of hail, so I sent the girls to the basement and moved all the yard sale stuff out of the way in the garage. The sky turned greener and greener, the animals in the field started acting stranger and stranger, and the thunder just creaked and groaned throughout the sky. The lightening was bad with this one, but it wasn't streaks. It was more like the clouds flickered, like someone turned a light switch on and off. I was out there, pacing and wringing my hands, begging God to let Kraig hurry and keep us safe. The sight of his truck pulling in was such a welcome sight. He still couldn't fit it in, so I had to keep moving things. I was, by this point, a nervous wreck. The sight of the sky made it obvious this was no joke. I have never felt so relieved than when we were able to shut the garage and run to the basement. We huddled together on a blanket and ate Taco Bell. I was, at that point, very anxious and irritable.

From 6 until after midnight, we stayed in the basement. I was getting the weather live reports on my iPad from NewsChannel 9, so we watched that nonstop. I also continually checked fb and saw images from other parts of town. I also kept in texting contact with several friends and my mom and dad. One friend sent a video her husband took of that 6:00 one that went down their street. It was also during this time that I learned of the police scanner app for iPad, so I started listening to it. Around 10 or 11, there was another report of another wave. Two things happened with that one.

First of all, they were calling for northern Bradley and McMinn to be aware. That scared me to death because by that time, other areas had been hit hard. We had the girls asleep on the hammock, but they were right out in the room downstairs. I was laying in the studio listening to the scanner while Kraig watched the TV down there. In addition, the scanner app started saying things like, "What was AJ's market on Dalton Pike is the command center" and "60+ entrapments right now in Cleveland" and "Blue Springs road hit hard" and "Guys, take cover, another is on the ground". It was at that point that I realized, this thing is BIG. This DAY is BIG. We are going to wake up the next day and be startled by what we find. I also started to think that it was very likely that everyone in Cleveland could know someone whose house was destroyed or, worse, who was dead or injured. That would prove to be ominously true. Reports started to come in from our church families. Things were looking rough for lots of people. We stayed up and stayed downstairs till well after midnight, when they were assuring us that it was clear. Even still, the girls slept in our bed that night.

The next morning... was just shocking. I was headed out to help with the First Baptist or CHS groups, having no idea what we would find. Reports were dire. As I headed into town, shocked at some trees down on North Lee Hwy, I got a call that SCCOG was going out, so I headed to the church. I had seen some pictures of the Frontage Road area and I was just FLOORED. It was TERRIBLE. (Again, perspective.) Houses had lost roofs and trees were down everywhere. We met at church and got the reports of the number of church families who we knew of so far who were affected. It was somewhere around seven. The first place we headed was the Duncan's house off Dalton Pike. Going down Dalton Pike was such an education in the power of nature... cars turned over, trees everywhere, things hanging from powerlines, a gas station COMPLETE RUBBLE. We turned down two roads to get to their house and everyone on the bus just gasped. Her neighborhood looked like a war zone. Houses were toppled, trees sticking through living rooms, roofs and doors and debris EVERYWHERE. Yet also everywhere were workers. People already cleaning up, helping people, delivering water. We worked at their house most of the early afternoon, carrying furniture out, then headed toward the Lead Mine Valley Road area. There really aren't words to describe it. These were GIANT houses, just piles of rubble. Fields FULL of debris. A grove of giant trees, snapped like toothpicks. This road is where several people died. It was shocking. From there, we went toward the Old Parksville area... oh my. The street Benwood was located on, Cheri Ellis's place-- just cut in half. Entire barns destroyed. We drove up toward the Robinson's house to find the house across from them only the foundation, with cars sitting upside down in the backyard. The Robinson's house was a roof sitting on the ground. Second floor, sitting on the ground. From the back of the house, the screened in porch was perfectly intact, the rest of the house shoved away from it. When we walked up, I wish I had known taking a picture was ok. Even without the picture, I will never forget the image in my head. Mr. Robinson was sitting in the bonus room surrounded by all of his hunting stuff, in a camp chair. The front wall of that room was gone. Mrs. Robinson was sitting on the edge of her roof, in front of the dormers, with her feet lightly scuffing the grass underneath, head down. It was such an image of desolation and destruction, of despair. From there we went into English Oaks and saw the house where the only injuries from our church family took place, the Fulton house. You could stand on the front steps and see into the basement. The entire house was shoved back 40 feet or so. Most disturbing, the slab of concrete that fell on them was below us and the son's shoe was still there where had had wrenched his foot out of it.

That first day, we worked and served supper. Some of us took meals out, serving people whose roofs were gone and a police officer who had not eaten in fourteen hours and power workers who had been on the job for 28. We went back out the next day, Friday, and worked more, moving furniture out of the Robinson's and Lee's houses, worked for a family in Willbrook whose ceiling was caving in so they had to move, then serving supper again. Saturday, chainsaw crews worked to clear trees and helped the Burton's in Willbrook and we went back to the Robinson's to work and clear their neighbor's trees. Sunday, over 100 people met at the church to form teams and go to some other areas we had not been yet. We moved trees and took diapers to a family with no power and took lunch. We served a meal again that night, then went back out to an elderly couple's house to clear wood debris. Monday, we went back to school and work. A friend tweeted at one point in that weekend that, "It's like there are two Clevelands... the one where life goes on and the one where life will never be the same." I agreed with that at the time, but since I have decided that life will never be the same for ANY of us.

I have friendships that were forged in those days of work, both with those I was working with and those we were working for. Our community has come together and raised money, donated supplies, volunteered man hours, cried together. Nine people died, and nine funerals were held. I was able to see the power of man helping his fellow man in a way I don't think I have seen before. One house that we worked on Sunday was an elderly couple with trees all over the yard. Between several chainsaws and lots of hands, we had it cleared in just over an hour. I had JUST FINISHED the Holocaust unit in which we had talked about the bystander and perpetrator and rescuer. I saw our students, my kids, playing the role of rescuer. I heard of very few who were bystanders. One church coordinated a laundry service, people took pet food to the shelters, showers were provided, generators given, internet access made available. It was so incredibly heartwarming and moving to be part of it. I was more physically (and emotionally) exhausted after those four days than I have ever been in my life, but it was so worth it. I have never had a true test of what I teach until this week, and I feel like I passed.

However, there have been long-term effects. It is almost two months after the storms, and you still see people with a wary eye on the sky when it gets dark. We had some bad storms this week and it broke my heart to hear my six year old keep asking me, "Should we go to the basement now, Mommy? Shouldn't we go on down there?" We went to church that night and my eight year old said, "Is it good to be in a building this tall in all this wind and lightening?" And you know the saddest part? They didn't even see the worst of it. I have always had a fear of storms, but I am now changed as well. I never took them very casually, but I will take them even more seriously now. I think about things, possessions, differently too. As I was helping families clear their rubble, it made me think about all the things I have that I don't NEED, things that someone would just have to pick up. There are lots of thoughts I have had and lessons I have learned from April 27, 2011.

Things I Learned:
The tennis shoes and socks are smart. We should always make sure we have our feet covered. It would also be a good idea to put jeans on everybody and even a light jacket or something to cover the arms.
When we go down, we need to be huddled together in the best spot. This "best spot" is a question, though. I saw so many places that were safe in one house and the same place was destroyed in another. The only thing I saw that remained pretty intact in all but one house was the staircase. I think we need to be under the staircase in our basement. I need to clear out a spot there and have some water, a weather radio, a flashlight, blankets, and pillows there.
When we have time, I should always get the things that I would want. My computer, my cameras, etc.
It would be wise to always keep your cell phone charged when you are at home. Being without power for long makes that impossible.
If anything ever really hits again, the girls should be IN OUR ARMS. Way too many stories of smaller people being pulled away by the storm.
Staying outside to look, video, photography-- stupid. Get in place IMMEDIATELY.
I feel like there are more but I can't remember them. Will add as I remember.