It was a beautiful Saturday morning. The sky was slightly overcast with a gentle breeze and temperatures that were just right for sitting in the porch swing with a hot cup of tea and a fuzzy sweater. But within hours the world had changed drastically. Gusting winds in the range of 75 miles per hour had uprooted ancient trees or simply snapped them in two, often dropping them down onto the nearest house or vehicle. Shingles or entire roofs were missing and the property damage was beyond belief. Many were without electricity, water, and phone service—and still are. And one family was left to mourn the loss of someone they loved dearly, someone who died trying to rescue a family pet without realizing the danger.
For an area that is accustomed to tornadoes, the eye wall of a hurricane was shocking. Instead of instant destruction that takes place over minutes, this event seemed to last hours with prolonged gusts of wind literally coming from all directions. At least that’s how it seemed while sitting in the middle of it . . . waiting . . . listening as the trees fell around me and the house creaked and groaned . . . wondering if each gust was the last one. Was it safe yet to go outside and survey the damage?
Had I been in Savannah it would have been a different story, but I wasn’t. I was at our magical cabin that, on this day, Mother Nature wrapped in a nightmare. Once it seemed safe to exit I found the structure intact . . . but I had to crawl over the tree that blocked the entire front of the house. Then there was the hike up the drive that was blocked by at least a half dozen trees followed by the discovery that, at the end of that two-tenths of a mile, was a road blocked on both sides by trees that had given way in the wrath of the storm. Everyone on that road was trapped, with no way out and no way for help to get in.
After walking through the woods to cross behind the trees that were down, I stood in the rain, waiting on the reinforcements I had called, not knowing they couldn’t reach me because the major highways were also blocked, and not understanding their efforts would be futile in this aftermath. As I began to realize night was going to fall before anyone could get there, a group of angels I’d never seen before flew in on a UTV, pick-ups, and a front end loader. They got out, chainsaws in hand, and asked a simple question. “Need help?”
I can’t begin to tell you how grateful I was for their arrival, or how hard they worked or for how long, but the chainsaws didn’t stop unless it was to let the front end loader move the largest logs to one side. Within an hour or so they had cleared a path down the road in at least one direction and started on the drive. Before dark it was passable and I was cleaning out the fridge so everything wouldn’t spoil over the next week or so. When I found the leftover homemade vanilla ice cream, I took the bucket and a spoon, sat down in the dark and, by the light of a coal oil lamp, ate until I was miserable.
In all of this chaos, I was very lucky . . . again. There was no damage to the house, no life lost; I don’t have to survive without the modern day conveniences—like a flushing toilet or a running shower, without food in the refrigerator or heat for the house. I’m not looking for sympathy because, as I said, I was very lucky—and very blessed. I told you my story to make two very important, very powerful points. Maybe three.
Point 1: Life changed in an instant, with no warning as to what was coming. It happens to someone every day, whether it’s tornadoes or hurricanes, wild fires or floods . . . whether it’s accidents, illnesses, or death. The things of this world, including its inhabitants, are temporary at best, and most of us understand that. We just don’t always remember it and we certainly don’t always act like it. Maybe life would be better for everyone if we did.
Point 2: People I had never seen before, people who did not know me from Adam . . . or Eve . . . came to my rescue for one reason and one reason only—because I needed help. Their only expectation was to get the job done so they could move on to the next one. And they did. Without complaining. Without expecting this huge favor to somehow be returned, as though that was even possible. And they weren’t the only ones. Across Hardin and McNairy Counties, people were working together to do what they could, neighbors helping neighbors, whether or not they had ever met, because they could . . . because they knew they should.
Point 3: There aren’t enough thank yous in this world to cover this situation. To the highway department that’s scouring the area, looking for roads that are still obstructed, to the lineman working to restore power and other emergency services personnel who risked their lives that day, to the neighbors working to clear roads and driveways, to cover damaged roofs and offer a place of shelter for those without, to everyone who reached out to anyone beginning on Saturday, October 26th, there are not enough words to express the gratitude felt by those to whom you offered aid and comfort. For once, words are woefully insufficient.
This was not my original topic for today. It’s Halloween and two weeks ago I wrote what would have been the perfectly timed blog about my granddaughter Cora and her “ghostly encounter” while we were on vacation. But then there was Saturday. Saturday with all of its fear and chaos, Saturday with all of its loss . . . loss of property . . . loss of life . . . loss of that sense of security which dissolves so quickly when the world seems to be crashing down around you—and somehow ghostly tales no longer seemed appropriate. But through it all, there were and still are the helpers—those people who, through their selfless acts of kindness, bless those who don’t know where to turn, assuring them they do not have to face the losses and the devastation alone.