Mississippi has a large number of thunderstorms and tornadoes each year. These storms are part of the adventure of living in this state. Most storms pass through the state with only downing trees and power lines. Occasionally there is a storm that will destroy houses and communities. Sometimes people will die from being struck by debris. This is my experience of the damage caused by one tornado.
It was late afternoon on a day in March when the thunderstorm began to move across the sky. The thunder and lightning were deafening as we prepared the patient’s rooms for the tornado warning. There were sounds of the warning sirens going off around us. Everything went smoothly and no one was injured at the hospital.
We were listening to the news when a coworker came to me and said that there had been major damage in my neighborhood from the storm. I began to panic as the thoughts of where were my loved ones. This was a difficult time in life for me as the pain of divorce was still lingering.
The panic continued on the way home. Phone calls had been made before leaving work assuring me that my loved ones were safe. No one knew the condition of my home. As I pulled into the driveway there were trees down in the yard and one tree had been speared into my home. The rain was still coming down into the opening of the roof as I opened the door. Standing at the door for a moment it looked like a pretty waterfall coming over the tree now in the living room.
When the shock of what was happening wore off I thanked God that the damage was only in the material things and then the panic set in. Where was I going live? How would my house be repaired? Is there ever a safe time in life?
The response from friends and neighbors was immediate. There were offers of a place to stay while the house was being repaired. Food was brought and assurances made that I was not alone. People in Mississippi are wonderful and quick to offer a helping hand when needed. There were kind strangers that brought chain saws and began to help me clean up the damage. I will be forever grateful to all of these people.
Recovery from a tornado is a long slow process. In addition to the material damage done there is a sense of loss in terms of security. The illusion that we live in a relatively safe environment is gone. Panic struck as I attempted to put my life back together again.
It took three months before the contractors could begin to repair the house. There was a waiting list due to the number of homes damaged or destroyed by the tornado. Each day I would come to the house and clean up a few more things. Finances were tough at the time and I worked as much overtime as possible. The home insurance would repair my home but not provide for the other needs in life. Food, shelter, and transportation are required elements of life regardless of the damage done during a storm.
The contractors finally were able to begin repairs on the house and it took three months for the work to be completed. Finally after six months I was able to move back into my home. It was a relief to begin setting material items back up in the house. The panic from the storm began to subside and things seemed to be getting back to a new normal.
The tornado damage was a wake up call for me. During this time I began to reevaluate what was important in life. Blessings of friends, family, and the kindness of strangers caused me to realize how important our communities are to all of us. We need each other to survive in this life. Kindness and cooperation are essential to all people to succeed in this world.
Nine years have passed since the tornado and I am a changed person. Material things are no longer important to me. Volunteering has become a part of my life. Contributing to world instead of taking from it gives me great pleasure. I no longer take life for granted and have a healthy respect for nature.
There was a round of spring thunderstorms that came through my community last week. Sirens sounded again to warn of a tornado in the area. As I sat in the closet with my husband and dog there was a brief moment of panic. Then I remembered that God protects me and that all is well within my soul.
copyright 2017 Debbie Pierce