learn. give. tornado tragedy and recovery.

We have a lot to catch up on. It seems ages ago I was excited about witnessing the history of a royal wedding. Then everything changed. Suddenly we were living a different kind of history.

If you are expecting profound words, I plead with you to adjust your expectations. Please do not mistake my two weeks of relative silence here as time I have been perfecting or even processing my thoughts about the storms that devastated the South.  I have barely been able to think. I have mostly felt, with little sense in the emotion. So, how can I explain to you what I do not understand?

I can only share my experience, to start.

Two weeks ago, I awoke (barely) to my phone ringing. Five thirty in the morning is not a normal time for anyone to call me. My mother’s voice was on the other end of the line. “Do you know there are a storms coming? We are in our safe place; are you in yours?” I mumbled a few words about getting in mine and being careful and fell back asleep on the floor between my bed and closet, blissfully unaware.

An hour later, a second call. “Are you okay?”
“Yes, I’m fine. The power is out, but I’m okay. Are you”
“We are. Some trees are down, but we are fine. I heard the train sound, Amy. “

Fallen Tulip Poplar - My Parents' Backyard

Later we would find out that it was indeed an F2 tornado that had moved through the previously well-forested community I still call home.

And that was only the beginning.

A very long 17 hours later, I fell asleep in that same bed, dreading the news I would hear the next day. At work I had charged every electronic device and streamed the weather reports online. I had watched a tornado ravage Cullman and immediately come home armed with a small radio. My nervous energy kept me organizing and cleaning what I could within close quarters of the bathroom and hallway that were off and on my refuge. I was praying continually.  I knew things were bad, but I had no details, no images.  So again, I fell into a shallow sleep in preparation for the worst.

That’s it. That is how I experienced the tornado outbreak of April 27, 2011. It seems so easy and so safe, and so unfair.

The next day, I started trying to drink from the fire hydrant of online information. I could not quench my thirst for enough information.  I have never been so grateful for or so overwhelmed by social media. Facebook and Twitter became lifelines.

Almost 250 dead.
One billion dollars worth of damage.
Homes, schools, churches, businesses, communities – gone.

Before & After Images from Google

The damage is widespread, affecting thousands upon thousands. But the individual stories are the ones that plunge deep and stick with me. Some are stories honoring the lost. Some are stories of don’t-call-me-heroes.  Many are stories of miracles.

Here are a few that have been circulated. I encourage you to read only when you are ready and as you are able.

Many stories can be found on AL.com here, the most detailed of which seems to be a personal account that began as a note on Facebook. Randy Robbins’s slightly harrowing experience is worth reading and may be a warning to heed for many readers.

And to honor those lost, this list of the deceased has a link to some biographical information for each victim.

Keep up with weather and the stories shared with the weather team at ABC 33/40 by checking their blog.

Unfortunately, not all stories circulated are true; not all sources can be trusted. But taking the time to listen to anyone’s first hand experience will help us understand and cope.

The needs are great indeed. And the ways to give are numerous. I suggest you give in whatever way you feel burdened whether you give a lump sum of money, 2 hours of your time every week, deliver snacks to a hospital, or give books to children. You will be used.

Local, national, or international, these organizations have existing infrastructures that are allowing needs to be met quickly and efficiently.

Christian Service Mission
This organization was established in 1970 and has been “connecting resources with needs” in Birmingham and Alabama for decades now. They are good at what they do and are well aware that needs will not disappear soon and recovery will not be complete overnight. “This isn’t a sprint; it’s a marathon.” CSM is making excellent use of Facebook and Twitter to communicate up-to-the-minute needs. And, they are seeing those immediate needs met.

They are accepting goods (not clothing) and volunteers. For those at a distance who would like to give, they have an Amazon Wish List through which you can shop and give. 

Samaritan’s Purse
Many posts ago, I talked about the joy of packing up a shoebox for a child in need around the world.  Operation Christmas Child is one of many projects for the large and global organization, Samaritan’s Purse. Another specialty is disaster relief. They are a presence in Haiti post-earthquake, Japan post-earthquake and tsunami, and now they are a presence in my home state.

 To support the efforts of Samaritan’s Purse, click here and see how to get involved.

Other organizations to check in to:
Red Cross
The Salvation Army
Feeding America
Hands On Birmingham
Governor’s Emergency Relief Fund
Alabama Baptist Tornado Relief
World Vision

Benefit Events
Many area events have incorporated some way of giving. For example, non-perishable food items were collected at the Avett Brothers Concert at Samford Universityon April 30th. Other events have been scheduled specifically to help with recovery efforts. So if attending a benefit event is your scene, be on the lookout. Here are just a couple examples:

Make Your Move Concert – Sunday, May 15th, 6pm at the BJCC
Artists for Alabama Event Series at Workplay. See link for details.

For more on events from the music community, see this article.

Benefit Products

Take your pick of t-shirts. There are so many options.

Purchase this compilation album from area artists and those across the country.

The Wind Will Carry the Voice of the People Cover Art

Search Etsy for products being sold to raise money for relief efforts.

There are so many more ways to help and give.
If you know of specific projects, resources, etc. PLEASE COMMENT below!
And remember, this is a Marathon.

I will close with these words that we may all cling to this and the many other promises of a good God, who is beyond our understanding, but faithful and worthy of all our trust and praise.

And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you. To him be the dominion forever and ever. Amen.
1 Peter 5:10-11


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