For the past week I have been wondering what I would say when I finally got the chance to write about the events of May 22nd and the days that have followed. Every experience is unique and everyone copes differently. I personally lost nothing in the tornado, but I have gained much in the days since.
Around 5pm on Sunday evening I was texting a friend whose children I was watching. I wanted to make sure she knew that there was a tornado warning for our area. Our friends pulled into the driveway just as I was preparing for all of us to take shelter in one of our bathrooms. None of us had any idea what was really coming our way. Our friends actually left because they were heading north and figured they would be out of the path of the storm. Within minutes of them leaving our house the storm sirens sounded for a second time and we lost power. I later came to find out that our friends saw the tornado touch down in their rear view mirror and were luckily able to take shelter in the nearby mall. Even though they are safe I regret not making them stay. I would have never forgiven myself if something had happened to them.
The sound of the tornado was like nothing I had ever heard before. If you've never heard one, it really does sound much like a freight train, but more terrifying. Living in the Midwest, this was not my first time huddled in the bathroom, but this was definitely the first time I had ever heard that sound. I understood what was happening, but I had no idea the magnitude or how close it was to my house. I actually had Facebook up on my phone and read that the tornado was near 13th and Rangeline - a mere two blocks from our home. Within an hour I would understand how fortunate my family was that night.
When it was over Rob went outside. He came back and said that there were pieces of siding and insulation all over the yard, but none of it was from our house. He said he was going to walk to the end of the street and come back. It felt like he was gone for hours. In that time a good friend showed up at our house because he couldn't get a hold of us by phone. He asked if I knew how bad it was. I had no idea. He just said that it was really bad, and emphasized that fact by informing me that Home Depot was leveled. He told me to get our stuff together so we could head north to his house, which was unaffected by the tornado. When my husband finally came home, he told me that places I frequent for our groceries - Wal-Mart and Aldi - were destroyed. He told me about helping a badly injured woman at Sonic. He described more buildings and businesses that were gone. It would be days before I saw it with my own eyes.
In the days that have followed, we have served as best we can. My husband has been able to use his military and management experience to help set up and run a distribution center. I have baked and prayed and baked and prayed. I am blessed to be able to serve friends in my home with food, fellowship and laundry. Although I saw pictures of the devastation online and on TV and I tried to take care of people, it still wasn't real to me for several days. I still hadn't seen what had happened to my city for myself.
When I finally drove through Joplin on Thursday and saw the devastation for myself, I felt like the "bad dream" feeling I had had all week finally lifted. This was reality. My city was in ruins. My first instinct was to take my family and run away. Anyone who knows me knows that in the past I would have done anything to get out of this town. Now I wonder if I will ever be able to leave. My heart is full of love for this city. This is home. I wish it didn't take such destruction for me to realize that.
As of right now, I am still processing. I am trying to understand how my home and family could be completely spared when just a few blocks away people lost everything, some even their lives. The combination of guilt and thankfulness is strange and overwhelming. I am in awe of the love being poured out on this city from all over the country and even the world. I am blessed by seeing the response of the church. The bride of Christ is shining brightly in Joplin. There is much I don't understand, but I know that God is sovereign. His ways are not our ways, and His glory will be revealed in all of this. He has not forsaken Joplin. No, quite the opposite. He is the God of this city! That song keeps running through my mind - "Greater things are yet to come, greater things are still to be done in this city." Lord, let your glory be known here.
Joplin will recover. God's glory will be revealed. Greater things are yet to come, indeed.