my town.

Posted on Mar 5, 2012 in Lifestyle

It’s really hard to put into words all the emotions that are circulating around in my head after Friday’s storms.

I know I feel incredibly fortunate.

We drove down there on Saturday morning, and I took one look at the area surrounding my parents’ house as we drove in, and I was so grateful that I was brought to tears. The road my parents’ house is on is about five miles long. There is only about 1/2 mile stretch of it open to cars because of the destruction, and my parents happened to live on that 1/2 mile. At the entrance (where it intersects the highway) is where this happened. I’ve driven past that saw mill, that mobile home, no less than 5000 times in my life. On the other end of that five miles, it looks like this. A tiny area of our county that is packed full of my friends from elementary school and their families.

And in the middle of it all, my parents, their three dogs, and my niece took shelter in the basement of the dream house they build 20 years ago. And they came out without a scratch on them, or a scratch on the house.The only thing changed was the door to the attic over the carport had been blown open thanks to the wind pressure and a few trees were uprooted. That. Was. It.

There are a lot of reasons why this could have been. The total randomness of tornadoes. The fact that the house was built a few hundred feet down the side of a ridge, protecting it. The fact that the house was built with incredible craftsmanship. Or maybe it was just pure luck. Whatever it is, as I watched my Dad and my Husband pull twisted metal from neighbors’ homes out of the lake I grew up swimming in, I was in awe that there wasn’t more to fix. More to do. We were able to clear the debris within a few hours.

I feel guilty. So, incredibly guilty.

I’ve been through this before. After our own tornado (which was only an EF1 compared to the EF4 that blew a football field away from my childhood home), I felt the same way. Of course, grateful to the core that we were mostly spared, but also guilty as can be that others weren’t. My family has excellent insurance and the complete and total ability to rebuild. Many of the victims of the storm do not have that kind of luxury. Washington County is a low-income place and I’m sure a lot of people lost everything with only a few dollars in their wallet. Why did it have to be them that got hit? We could have handled it (just as long as everyone was safe). I’m not sure our neighbors can.

You can see what is left of this house from my parents' driveway.

Of course, that line of thinking is totally useless. It doesn’t accomplish anything except to rob me of the joy of being blessed. And paralyze me from being able to help.

I learned yesterday, that out of the outbreak of 45 confirmed tornadoes across the country that day, the most destructive was the EF4 that took out my hometown. And that little piece of information made me really sink into gratefulness. Especially when you consider my family has been spared twice, by two different tornadoes in less than a year. Oh how different this could have been…

The outpouring of support from other communities has been amazing. In the town center, there was a collection of fire trucks, ambulances and National Guard vehicles from all over the state. Just to give you an idea, Lafayette is about four hours away.

It’s interesting, even though this didn’t affect me directly (as in, the homes of my parents, my sister and my brother, who all live in the area, were untouched and no one was injured), I am still hurting at the core. My hometown has a population of about 1400 people. My high school barely had 350 kids in it, and that was only because the school district extended way past the town limits. Everyone knows everyone. Every last name in the articles in the newspaper, I recognize. Every piece of tornado footage on TV, I recognize where it was shot. Every home that was destroyed, I’d driven past it a hundred times. It’s hard not to be shaken when a community you’ve known since birth, will never be the same again.

I also feel incredibly useless.

We did what we could. The tornadoes happened late Friday afternoon, so as of Saturday morning, they were still in search and rescue mode, which was for trained folks only. So we did the only thing we knew to do and went to Walmart and stocked up on food, water, toiletries, clothes, coats and gloves (it snowed yesterday) and donated them to the local fire station on our way into town. When we were unloading, there were so many volunteers mulling around. Taking care of those that were displaced. Giving them hugs. Handing them hot coffee. It warmed my heart to see my community come together like that, but also flipped a switch inside of me. I want to do more. I want to be more. Sure I have the disposable income to go buy some clearance winter gear from Walmart, but does that really help? Maybe a bit, but nothing like what the first responders were doing. Or even the person handing out a cup of coffee and a hug.

Maybe that feeling of helplessness will spark me to do something big in the future, but for now, the best thing I (and you guys) can do is lend a helping hand and wallet to the organizations that are providing disaster relief to the communities hardest hit.

I know both the Salvation Army and Red Cross are all over Southern Indiana helping out and both are accepting donations to help fund the relief efforts:

  • Text “HOOSIER” to 80888 to donate $10 to the Salvation Army. Or donate online.
  • Text “REDCROSS” to 90999 to donate $10 to the Red Cross. Or donate online.

A side note about these donations: I myself am hesitant to donate to the Salvation Army because of some of their political stances, however, they were the only organization I saw in my town this past weekend. That’s not to say others weren’t there—I’m sure they were—but I saw the Salvation Army there with my own eyes helping without discrimination every single person that needed it. I put my political beliefs aside and donated to their organization because I physically saw them making the most difference in my hometown. And that’s where I wanted my money to go. Take that as you will.

Thank you everyone for your kind words and support. I promise to be back soon with some deliciousness to share.

8 Comments

  1. I am really sorry to hear of the destruction in your hometown. Tornadoes are such scary natural disasters. I am glad that your family is safe, though!

  2. Oh my goodness! I’m so sorry that happened to your hometown, Cassie. But it’s very inspiring to see that help sometimes isn’t colored with ulterior motives or political stances.

    My thoughts are with you, with your community, and with the future healing that is to come.

  3. I donated to the Salvation Army in hopes it can help, and I’ll keep your town in my thoughts. I remember being in Homestead in 1993 after the hurricanes swept through. My school spent some of our time volunteering for Habitat for Humanity on our class trip. The devastation that a natural disaster on a big scale can wreak is just enormous, but it was also inspiring to see how a community can pull together.

    Growing up in the midwest, I know how tornadoes can menace your life, but it’s hard when it anything like this hits you at home. Hang in there. The important things are those that a storm won’t touch.

    • Cassie- so thankful your family is ok. you’re in our prayers.

  4. Hi! I live in Alabama where 250 people died last year and countless homes and businesses were destroyed on April 27th. Your strength and caring will help your town- that is what gets people through- knowing they don’t have to do this alone. Don’t ask people what you can do for them – just do it! Take them a coat, a meal – women need personal care items, babies need diapers and formula. Children need comfort and a toy or stuffed animal- everyone needs baby wipes and new underwear. Think basic necessities. They can’t think right now. I found that helping one or two families specifically helped because it is so overwhelming to think that you can’t help everyone like you want to. My husband and son spent a day helping 2 families clear debris off their land so bulldozers could come in later. One thing they noticed was volunteers driving/walking up and down the roads giving the clean-up crews water and snacks. By helping those who are helping, more gets done. And don’t forget, in about a month, the help has to go back to their lives- what can you do in a month, or in 6 months. There are still people in Alabama who aren’t rebuilt yet, almost a year later. This takes years. You caring soul and resources will be a blessing to many. God Bless your Town- You will see God’s presence even in the midst of all the destruction.

  5. Cassie, thanks so much for sharing all of the information about the storms in this and your previous post. I’ve seen it all over the news, but it just didn’t really sink in as to how devastating it all actually is until I read your writings. I am so sorry for you and your hometown, and hope that somehow everyone can start to rebuild. And please don’t feel guilty- you know that you had no fault in any of this, and what you’re doing to help is so appreciated by so many people (and just spreading the word and letting us know how we can donate does so much too). Thank God you and your family are okay.

  6. Cassie, unbelievable destruction…you can’t help but feel sad and overwhelmed by it. But the support from people all over Indiana (as well as other states) warms my heart. People do care. I have a friend in Mitchell who is taking up donations at his church, going down to help with the clean up, anything that he (and other members of his church and the community) can do to help. Take care.

  7. Our pastor is apparently very good friends with another local pastor down there. He went down today to see what we could do to help (in addition to taking up a collection). My heart breaks for those families who have little left, but it brings joy to hear that your family was okay and that others are willing up to help.

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