It was a typical Saturday. JD and I were out running errands- buying mulch, getting groceries, etc. There were very few people out shopping for a Saturday afternoon. Minus the patter of rain the roof, the store was eerily quiet. As we were checking out, JD’s grandma called to ask where we were. “Don’t leave yet,” she warned. “There’s a tornado on the ground near your house.”
We left the store as the sky was clearing. As we pulled off the highway and onto the main road that leads into town, we started to see debris across the roadway. Then we saw a beastly tree that had been completely uprooted. The damage only got worse as we got closer to our neighborhood. I couldn’t find words- only “Oh my God,” over and over.
We weren’t sure what we were going to see when we pulled onto our street, and we were both worried about the dogs. Pet lovers know that they become a part of your family. I knew that we would feel guilty and heartbroken if anything had happened to them.
We turned the corner and both held our breath. I gasped. It was bad and it was good at the same time. Our house was still in one piece, and we heard the dogs barking so we knew they were okay. Our neighbor had a branch through their roof. We had some shingles missing, but no other visible damage. You couldn’t even see our other neighbor’s house because there was a fallen tree blocking it. JD’s car was in one piece. His motorcycle was still standing like nothing had happened.
Our neighbors (with the branch) were outside and came up to the car as we pulled up the street. Chainsaws and emergency sirens echoed throughout the neighborhood.
“Is everyone okay?” we asked. They were fine, though understandably shaken up. They said the air was strangely still, then they felt a drastic pressure change and ran to huddle in their bathroom with their young daughter. They heard a crash and waited, expecting the roof to fly off the house, but then it was over, they still had (most of) a roof, and they were all safe.
Shaken, we went around to the back of the house. My beloved tree- the one with branches that came up to our master bath and bloomed with pretty white flowers in the spring- had fallen victim to the storm. It was all over the yard, although not through any windows or siding, which we were extremely thankful for. We’d also lost a small tree on the other side of the yard. Shingles were scattered around.
Our other neighbor (with the hidden house) lost 2 trees in her back yard. One had snapped in half and the other had fallen into a house in the neighborhood behind us. It didn’t look like it had done much damage to the house, and I saw the residents outside later so I knew they were okay. Hidden House neighbor was out of town, so we called to let her know what had happened and reassure her that her house was okay.
When I came back around to the front of the house, I found a piece of rain-soaked mail in our bushes. I picked it up and glanced at the address. It wasn’t ours. It wasn’t even to one of our neighbors. It was for the house at the end of the street and around the corner.
Next, we tried to call family and friends to let them know we were okay. Our cell coverage was spotty, so I finally gave up and sent a mass text. JD updated his Facebook status. Within a few minutes, we had several people text us to ask how they could help, and several more post on his Facebook status. A few hours later, we had 7 police recruits with chainsaws and axes, ready to help in any way they could.
It was a team effort- our neighbors, their friends, JD and the police recruits worked to remove the branch from my neighbors roof, then clear the driveway for our out of town neighbor, then clean up our back yard, working well into the darkness. I was cleaning up smaller debris from the front yard when I stopped for a minute to watch them work. In that moment, I was so grateful for so many things. I was grateful that all the trees seemed to fall the right way, that everyone’s home was mostly intact, that no one was hurt, and that we had such amazing friends and neighbors. The kind that will drop what they’re doing, drive 30 minutes to your house, and offer to help before you’ve had a chance to ask.
We didn’t have cable or internet, so any information we got was from people who came in from other areas to help. As more reports came in, I grew more worried about friends we had in affected areas. My hands shook as I checked Facebook on my phone or dialed the number of someone I hadn’t heard from. Miraculously, everyone was okay.
After the day’s work was done, we took the recruits out for pizza as a thank you, then went home to shower (our power was already back on!) and fall into bed. We stared at the ceiling, exhausted, trying to comprehend what had just happened. The day was surreal.
To be continued... Clean-up Day 2...