I will admit, yesterday was one of the very few times I actually took “shelter” in advance of a tornado. I mean, actually got into a “safe-space” with the family and put helmets on everyone. We hadn’t been there but just a few minutes when we lost power and were sitting in the dark with three children who were talking nonstop. They were excited about sitting in the closet with a flashlight on. Who wouldn’t be?
After about ten minutes my phone rang and the shaky voice on the other end asked, “Are you sure you are okay?” I confidently responded, “We are in our safe-space, and all is well.” My friend, Bubba, (Yes his name truly is Bubba) on the other end of the call paused for a moment and then cautiously said, “The tornado just went through your neighborhood!” He went on to say, “We watched the tornado on TV and they said it was going right through the middle of your neighborhood!” I asked if he knew if we were safe to come out of our shelter and he responded saying, “I believe you are. It appears to have crossed over the highway and is now past you!”
I opened the door to our basement and garage and walked outside. I was telling Bubba that I was thankful everything I could see appeared to be okay. All seemed to be what I typically see living in the south and experiencing tornado season twice a year. The storms come and go and I see the damage on TV that has happened miles away.
At this point I assumed our neighborhood had been missed, and the tornado had gone over us. Still on the phone, I told Bubba we didn’t hear anything except the kids who were noisy as usual. We chuckled and I thanked him for checking on us and told him all was well and we would talk again soon.
Instinctively, I grabbed a pair of gloves and loaded everyone into our truck so we could ride around and see the trees that might have blown down. I drove to the end of the block, turned, and immediately realized our community had taken a direct hit. Trees were down everywhere and I could already see rooftops and tops floors of houses were missing. What seemed serene in our cul-de-sac was now contrasted by chaos.
We spent the next hour or so helping clear the roadway so emergency equipment and personnel could get through. I began helping some neighbors move items to other neighbors garages, clearing nail-studded boards and roofing material from the roadway, and attempting to clear paths for those who needed to get their cars out of their garages so they could seek shelter elsewhere.
Eventually, i made my way back home and was still in shock from the devastation I had seen.
Finally, taking a moment to check my phone, I realized I had about twenty missed calls and more than double that in text messages.
As I worked my way through the messages and calls, I was overwhelmed with humble gratitude. I stood there with tears welling in my eyes, just thinking about how many had reached out to see if we were okay. Text messages from all over the country had poured in. From California to Florida! Texas to Canada! More coming in faster than I could respond. Thankful for the thoughtfulness of so many, I spoke out loud, “I am truly a fortunate man that you God has exceedingly blessed with great friendships over the years.”
Fortunately, our house was spared any damage. Unfortunately, dozens of our neighbors can’t say the same thing. My heart breaks for them as they awaken today and attempt to put their lives back together. For them, I ask that you pray for the daunting task ahead as they walk through this journey of rebuilding and restoring their lives. For my family, lift praises to God for our safety during this storm and for direction of how we can be the hands and feet of Jesus in our neighborhood.
For a little levity sake, my seven year old son Hudson, having overheard the phone call earlier and had now seen all the damage asked me, “Daddy, when you said you didn’t hear the tornado because the kids were talking, does that mean we are louder than a tornado?” In which I responded, “YES! You are!” ❤️