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Was that a tornado??

Last night, the wind made a racket in the tarp over the gaping hole in our chimney.  It kept me awake for a while and made me realize I’ve become hypersensitive to the sounds of a storm.

Last Tuesday afternoon, three out of four of us were here.  Our younger son wasn’t home.  Jon was in the back yard, our older son was on his phone upstairs, and I was upstairs, also on the phone.  I heard a single, loud thunderclap, then that infamous “freight train” sound.  Jon ran inside and hollered that we needed to get downstairs.  We did.  I wrenched my bad shoulder pitching stuff out of the closet under the stairs so we could take shelter there, but the tornado had passed.

Everywhere, neighbors ran outside to check on each other.  The big question, asked over and over, was:  “Are you all right?”  Nothing else mattered.

Then came the sirens and flashing lights.  Police and firefighters arrived within minutes and went door to door, asking if everybody was accounted for.  They marked mailboxes or front doors and moved on down the street.  Within an hour or two, we heard that at least one home was pancaked and others had lost entire walls, but nobody was injured or missing—except for one missing dog, but he turned up unharmed in the rubble of his house.

The police did a great job of keeping gawkers out of the neighborhood.  Still, the activity level was amazing, with roofing and siding contractors materializing out of nowhere.  News helicopters circled low, making our cats panic, and news vans drove up and down the street.

We tried to limit our phone time because with no power, we couldn’t charge our cell phones, but several people called to offer us a place to stay.  The boys took advantage of those offers, while Jon and I decided it was easier to stay in a house without heat and power than to haul my “nest” with us.  (I’m still recovering from a fracture, and I can’t sleep unless I’m sitting upright in a carefully arranged nest of pillows to support my shoulder, just so.)  We stayed reasonably warm that first night, lighting our way with flashlights, and we knew the utility companies were working to restore services.  A couple of people called us to say they could bring generators, all the way from the other side of Atlanta, but only about thirty hours after the storm hit, we had power and heat again.

Meanwhile, the Red Cross had stepped in.  They arranged housing for people who had nowhere to go, and the Salvation Army set up a mobile kitchen just down the street from our house.  They were wonderful, offering not just hot coffee and meals, but also kindness and encouragement.

A Home Depot crew showed up too, to give away bottled water and heavy-duty trash bags for debris.  At that point, though, we couldn’t start the real cleanup because our insurance adjuster hadn’t come to assess the damage.  Insurance companies were there in force, though.

Our homeowners association was great about keeping everyone informed about various offers of help, including a free lunch at Olive Garden one day.  Unfortunately, that conflicted with our appointment with our insurance adjuster.  Another generous offer came from Northview Church, down the road from our subdivision.  They put on a huge potluck supper, two nights in a row, and invited our entire neighborhood.  The initial shock had passed by then, but fatigue was settling in.  The kindness that Northview extended to us was like a big, warm hug.  No strings attached—just Christian love, offered to all.

Now that we’ve had time to go online and view videos and photos, we have a new perspective on the tornado.  The damage looks different viewed from a news chopper.  If the storm had taken a slightly different path, it could have taken out another row of houses, including ours.  Judging by the damage done to massive trees only 200 yards from our house, we might not have survived a direct hit.

This is the fifth day after the tornado.  Our sons left early to handle their duties at church, so we had no way to get there when our truck wouldn’t start.  Since we were stuck at home anyway, Jon went outside to deal with our downed trees, downed fences, and ruined decking.  Two hours of work didn’t even make a dent in the damage, but we’re very grateful that we still have a house and yard.  We’re grateful to be alive to work on them.  And we’re grateful for our neighbors, those who live in our subdivision and also those who don’t but who obeyed the command, “Love thy neighbor” by reaching out to help.  Thank you.

And thank You, Lord.

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