Sunday, May 15, 2011

An Addendum: Good Things About Cleveland, Tennessee

The Storm and After
Several months ago I wrote this. I’m a Type A list writing person. I thought seeing a concrete list of good things about this town where I live would help me to end a 2 year long pity party about living here. I think it helped. I said I would update it, but never did until now.

Tuscaloosa, Alabama was not the only town to have been devastated by tornados on April 27th. NBC Nightly News didn’t broadcast from here, but obliteration and human suffering are the same anywhere – even if your town isn’t home to a major SEC Football institution.

Bates Pike, Cleveland TN.
 Too near to my home...
That day we endured 5 ways of thunderstorms and tornadic activity beginning mid morning and not ending until after midnight. And yes, this is about “good” things in Cleveland, Tennessee.

Chem light fun!

 School dismissed early and the kids, dogs and I were ready to right out the storm together as Husband was in Texas dealing with wildfires. Good thing #1: Neighbors. Mine are priceless gems. During storms we usually get out Husband’s police flashlights and police radio. I had neither, so I borrowed a flashlight. Since I didn’t have a weather radio and the damn Directv goes out in a brisk wind, I relied on texts from neighbors on when we could get out of the basement – albeit briefly.

My neighbor called and told me that in 2 minutes “The BIG one” was to arrive. In the sideways rain and gale force winds she ran across the street to bring me a giant chem. light. So with a borrowed flashlight and a gifted chem. light we took cover in the basement.

The next morning came and all was eerily quiet and unusually sunny. There was no power. After such a night it seems odd, rude even for the sun to dare to shine. To use a literary reference, the world in which I woke up was a cross between “Alas Babylon” and “Little House on the Prairie.” Alas Babylon because we (the neighbors) combine all of our gasoline to power the one generator we had so the food in the fridge wouldn’t go bad. Those who’d ventured to work had notified us of potential water and gasoline shortages. “Little House on the Prairie,” because life becomes primitive, much like camping awful quickly. Those who know me just a little know I lack a certain pioneer spirit….

The gym of Bruce's school.
And yes, that's the actual sky where the roof should be.
  But despite tree limbs and leaf litter, our homes seemed virtually unscathed. That morning I tried to venture out for breakfast. How foolish of me. I couldn’t make it to a main road the route I chose. Many MANY had not been as fortunate as the residents of our little subdivision.

Tornados are like a hit and run car crash. They come without warning leaving ruin and carnage in their wake. But they are gone quickly as well and their victims will never have the satisfaction of seeing who or what was to blame for their damage.

The day was long and hot. I had no power and the water eventually quit too. With cell phone power dwindling and a complete inability to feed my children I began to panic. I hastily packed a bag and drove to Chattanooga. I left my dogs and my home relying on the grace of others care for them.

The fourth hotel I tried had a vacancy. They’d experienced softball size hail and had several windows out. There was also no internet. Normally I don’t go out in public in dirty clothes, without a shower. But on this day I ate at Texas Roadhouse with a room full of storm refugees and I looked better than some. While the kids slept I had my sister in law book me on a flight to Arkansas. And yes, I did get up to watch the Royal Wedding. But it was seriously lacking the joy for me that it had earlier in the week.

I observed the happenings in Cleveland over the next several days from cyberspace, phone and text messages. In the middle of heartache truly came hope. No one made signs and mugged in front of television cameras begging for help. Everyone just helped. If you had a chainsaw, you used it. Since 2 schools were too damaged to finish the year, other accommodations were made and school supplies were gathered. Too many in fact.  Bruce has come home with brand new paper, crayons and pencils.

The sign on the tree reads
 "God Still Does Miracles"

Since then all in my neighborhood have tried to hypthosize why we were spared and properties so close were not. The scientist-type like to come up with a formulaic answer. It’s always something about the wind trajectory coming up the ridge being broken by the trees, etc. Some think it was totally random.

Then there are those that attribute our good fortune to God. Before building started the developer prayed over the land, and for God's mercy and gracy to be present. He prayed for those who would build the homes and for the souls who would eventually inhabit them.

Whatever it is I will try to go forward lucky and blessed AND armed with a proper flashlight and a weather radio – if I can ever remember to buy them.  I remain eternally embarrassed for the neighbor who cleaned out my refridgerator.  I owe you a steak dinner.

No comments:

Post a Comment