April 28, 2011

All of our Family are Safe and Accounted For

Malcolm and I got home last night and since then I've spent most of my time on the computer and on the phone with Mom.

Yesterday, starting early in the morning, my home state of Tennessee was attacked by mother nature. Not just my home state, but my home town.

As I've sat here at my kitchen table, 2000 miles away, I've been left...speechless and quite honestly shaken!

My sister's town in Murfreesboro did have a small tornado yesterday early morning. It touched down briefly the street over from hers, but she and her family and property were fine. It was a releif for me to have that news, as that area of Tennessee is so frequently assualted.

It was where the storms did their most damage that was so unexpected for me. As we were loading yesterday morning in Great Falls I was on Facebook reading posts from friends and family members in Chattanooga, all of whom were posting from basements, closets, and interior bathrooms where they were hiding out, as the first storm made its way through the area.

Loaded and heading home, I had checked in with my Dad who said they were all good. The storm was on the other side of Chattanooga from them. Mom was still at school in Ringgold, where they were working towards an early dismissal.  Malcolm spoke with his aunt, who lives on the northwest side of Chattanooga where a tornado had touched down, and she said they had a lot of trees down and that the Walmart down the road from her had lost its roof, but other than that they were OK. We breathed a sigh of relief and continued on towards home.

It is so hard to be so far away at times like these. Not that there is anything we could do if we were there, but still, you want to be able to be there, to see with your own eyes, to touch and know that all is OK, mostly to be there to lend support and just be with each other.

Later in the early evening I called Mom back to check back in and learn the latest as the day was to hold a number of violent storms. She said a tree had fallen on one of Dad's rental houses in the most recent storm but there didn't appear to be any damage. There was another HUGE tree leaning precariously towards my Dad's business, but nothing could be done but to wait and see. They had lost power around 3:00 in the afternoon at the house and at the restaurant, and were worried about the products and meat in the coolers, but that was the extent of their problems.

An hour later my sister called me and wanted to know if I had heard from Mom. I told her I had an hour ago, and she said she'd just texted her and Mom had replied in a text that they were fine but that Ringgold had been hit bad.

Ringgold, GA is a small southern town about 20 miles down the road from myparent's home in Ooltewah. Ringgold is the town Malcolm and I lived in before moving to Montana. We lived just outside town. He drove truck and was gone Monday through Friday. I taught 7th grade inclusion at Ringgold Middle School where Mom teaches still. I was worried about people I knew and places I treasured in my memory, but nothing could be done till morning.

And then this morning...

Malcolm's aunt and uncle were still fine with only some minor damages. We were thankful. My brother and his family are safe, and even have power! My aunt and her family who live very near Ringgold were able to stand in their yard and watch the tornado, but escaped damages and are all safe. My grandparents, uncles and aunts...all are safe and escaped damages. Even my cousins who live in Tuscaloosa, AL, another incredibly hard hit town, are fine and unharmed. We are thanking God for all their safety!

My parents are also safe and unharmed. Mom said it was amazing to look around this morning, knowing what awful damages have been done, and see that nothing, not even her garden, appears to be harmed! How is that? But we are so thankful!

The tree leaning towards the restaurant never fell. Dad had a huge expensive shipment of meat in his coolers, with no power to keep cool, and last night the Bi-Lo grocery store manager let Dad bring his meat to the store and they packed it on a pallet and put it in their cooler for him. They were in a part of town that still had power. I am so grateful to that man for his generosity. I know it was a relief for Dad. I asked Mom how they were going to eat with no power, probably for several days, and her response was that Dad had spent more than an hour this morning in a line of traffic at the BoJangles waiting for biscuits. Everyone is without power and no one can cook! And then once he got to the drive through window, they were unable to take credit or debit cards. Only cash worked! All those poor people who were sitting there hungry and waiting forever! It pays to always have a little cash with you, which Dad did thankfully, and I tucked that little lesson learned into the mind for future use.

Then, a small miracle, power was restored to Dad's restaurant, probably in time to save a good deal of what was in the coolers and freezers, and Dad was able to get the restaurant open early this afternoon. They have been swamped since opening. I am just so grateful that all my family has escaped harm or damages, and I'm sure there are a lot of people grateful that someone is able to cook and feed them!

Ringgold, as you may have seen on the news, is another story. From what I can gather from the pictures available, a good deal of the newer development of businesses are gone. I'm thankful that the more historic parts of town seem to have escaped, but the damages that exist are overwhelming. Its one thing to see on the news when something like this happens to a town somewhere. You hurt for the people, you think "how tragic" and you go about your business and its out of your mind in a few moments. When its a town you know, when its people who were or are part of your life, its a different experience.

Instead of being productive today and using my time at home to do the things I miss doing, I've been on the computer, fighting with my internet signal, to pull up pictures and trying to watch news reports. The town is closed and all roads are blocked so pictures are limited, but its still obvious that its horrible. There are fatalities. I hear that a high school junior is one of them and I worry because my dance team girls that I coached as 6th graders are juniors this year. There are friends on facebook asking 'has anyone heard from" this person or that. There are co-workers of Mom's that haven't been accounted for yet. There are businesses that were community landmarks, businesses that were like historic treasures for the community, that are gone! And maybe what touches me the closest, Ringgold Middle School has lost the roof off of part of the building and been seriously damaged. My Mom's classroom is exposed to the sky.

Though you couldn't tell from this rather lengthy post, I really have been left just speechless! I can describe what happened, but I can't describe my feelings, or put into words...there are no words! The picture above is from a Chattanooga news station. Here is a link to their website and the rest of the aerial shots.

More pictures here of damages on Cherokee Valley Road, which comes into Ringgold across the road from our former home. They are still going through houses looking for bodies in that area.

The thought occurred to me a little while ago that if this had happened 5 years ago, I would have been home alone and Malcolm would have been on the road in Virginia somewhere. I am so thankful that is not the case!

I am beyond just plain thankful that my loved ones are safe and in good positions. And I am devastated for a community that welcomed us and made us feel like family. So many people whose lives have been just torn apart, literally and figuratively. Its overwhelming to say the least. And that's from 2000 miles away!

I feel like this is a lame ending to an emotionally packed post, but I've run out of things to say. Or rather I don't know how to say anything. It goes without saying, but please pray for the people of this community, and all the others that had such a horrible day and night. They will be living a nightmare for many days to come!


Shirley said...

When something like this affects your family and places you know, it is always hard. I'm glad to hear that your family is mostly unscathed, and my hearty goes out to those who lost so much. Thinking about Japan and the earthquake there, imagine this on a much huger scale. One can only pray that disaster doesn't strike, and who among us is really prepared if it does?

Janice said...

I'm glad to hear the people you care about and the ones you don't know are OK. I have been following Mother Natures trail through the States, it is certainly a sight to behold, I have never seen such devastation it is a miracle that more people are not hurt.

Sonya said...

This was a scary storm system. I work in Nashville and live east of Nashville. We were lucky for the most part here. We had plenty of rotation warnings, funnel spottings, but our temps were cooler and I think the rougher stuff stayed south. My nerves were shot for 2 to 3 days of these bad storms. This was a historical outbreak of tornadoes I heard.

Michaele said...

You were right there with them the whole time, as if it were happening to you. I am glad your family is safe and feel for you sorting this out emotionally. How frightening and terribly sad for the town.

The Allens said...

Thank the good Lord all your family is safe. The pictures just break your heart. My good friend lost her house. Thank goodness she went to stay with her mother since they had a basement.

Meagan said...

So crazy. It's still surreal... and sickening. Just last night a friend of mine that grew up in Cleaveland was saying her friend that worked at the Children's hospital had kids that they didn't know who they belonged to because they were found alone... one in a bath tub and one in a field. So. Sad.

On a lighter note - I LOVE (really LOVE) your blog makeover!

Vintage West said...

I'm so glad to hear your loved ones are safe.

Anonymous said...

that is my school........and i live on cherokee valley road