Friday, April 29, 2011


in 2007 i wrote this bit of a memory.  in 1990 my hometown was flattened by a tornado, devastated.  in my own way, i share this as a tribute to those affected by the storms all over the south this week.  may you find strength and hope that there is "another side" and you will come out stronger.

in the meantime, my prayers are with you.
as are the prayers of thousands.

i will never forget a few years after our tornado when we went on vacation to nashville (ironic) and stopped at a restaurant.  the waitress, upon finding out where we were from, immediatedly sobered up and said "petersburg...that's where that awful tornado was a few years ago, right?"
when we confirmed she told us with tears in her eyes that her family had prayed for us all.
and somehow, that meant a lot.

so i hope 5 years from now a waitress is moved to tears when she finds out where you were this week.  i hope a teacher is able to comfort your children, and a pastor is able to shine God's love into your lives.  and most of all, i hope you find out something about yourself that you would have never known otherwise.  and i hope you forget -- but not really.

It’s on Wikipedia now. An article entitled “Lower Ohio Valley Tornado Outbreak”.3 sentences that are supposed to sum up that time in my life.

“Petersburg, Indiana was the hardest hit town affected by the outbreak. It was one of two towns in Indiana that were hit by an F4 tornado. Six of the 12 people killed in Indiana were in Petersburg.”

It’s a rather simplistic answer to the questions we all asked in 1990. I was 9. Mercifully, I remember little about those weeks, months, years after the storm hit us. The images I do have in my mind are vivid though, and have not faded with time. My next door neighbor and I crouching underneath her staircase, crying and holding on to each other sure that we were going to die. Walking out of her house after the freight train had sounded and long gone, and seeing the debris that covered our yard—like snow, in June. There was wallpaper from the nursing home that was flattened—we recognized it right away.We moved slowly through the next few hours—finally getting our power back after 3 days. We couldn’t leave the house for the longest time. My father was a police officer and when we finally left the house on Sunday to go to church, he was going to drive us through the worst-hit part of town on the way back home so we could see. The roadblocks wouldn’t let us through, even with his badge, because I was in the car. When we finally were allowed to drive through downtown, weeks later, I didn’t recognize it. The historic buildings—gone. Only a very few were left standing, and those were in pretty bad shape.

Slowly, but surely, our town was rebuilt. The Red Cross was a visible presence for months. Construction became a way of life. People cried a lot, but they soon shook off the tears, got on their feet and began trying to put the pieces back together.

I watched all of this, baffled. And then I forgot.
But I never did, really.

The next year we moved closer to town and I changed elementary schools. Only--this school had been destroyed by the tornado, so the temporary school was a system of portables connected by a covered walkway. I was reminded of the Storm every day at dismissal as we stood on those walkways.

And then I went to middle school, and I forgot.
But I never did, really.

A couple of years later we began attending another church. This one was brand new—because the original building had been flattened by the tornado. Every week as I walked through the front doors I saw the sign that said “Dedicated to the glory of God, June 1991” and remembered that it was because in June of 1990 their other church collapsed.

And then I went to college, and I forgot.
But I never did, really.



Vanessa said...

I too remember. It was horrific! As are the images on the tv screen and newscasts now. Your words are beautiful though!

Stephanie@SweetTeaAndSunshine said...

Thank you, Lora. There are over 300 confirmed dead at this point. A terrible tornado ripped through my hometown and 7 are gone, as of last count. When you only have 500 people, that's a tragic thing. Thank you for your prayers. Keep 'em coming.

Brooke said...

my prayers are with them.

a beautiful post.