May 18, 2011

Serving Others: Vilonia Tornado 2011

A couple weekends ago, my entire family ventured out with others from our church resized_99263-torando-air15_44-14547_t400to help those in need.  The back of my Suburban was filled with donated blankets, and water and food for our clean up crew.  I wish I would have taken my camera.

The pictures in this post are those shared by others.  They are not my own, but I wanted to show my readers and remind myself and my family of this day.

Driving through the town, on the way to our meeting place, we were shocked at the devastation.  Trees were broken and twisted and uprooted.  They were inside homes and homes were up in trees.  It was eerie.  These were huge trees probably a hundred years or more in the making and they will never be the same.  There were plumes of smoke rising in every direction from the fires burning the wreckage.

We met at the High School to sign in and get our assignments and then we were off to our assigned area.  Our area had been relieved already so we went out looking for someone to help.  We were told that Marshall Street had lots of damage so we headed there.  We helped an elderly lady and then also her neighbor.  Just across the street were foundations without  houses on top. The houses were just gone. We hauled debris to the curb and lots of metal.  We loaded a hot water heater, stove and garage door onto a trailer.   We were happy to help at these two homes, but I kept feeling like there was someone  who needed our help even more.  I knew it. 

tornado damageI was in conversation with my Heavenly Father asking him to show us who we needed to help, when a FEMA worker came into my view just down the road.  I hurried to her and asked her if she could direct us to someone who really needed our help.  She showed me a location that had 5 deaths and horrible devastation that was farther out away from the main areas of town.  My crew headed out that way hoping and praying for the opportunity to give relief to someone.

The area was just demolished. There were piles of rubbish where homes once stood. Unfortunately, these places were a total loss and no one was home to give permission to help.  We stopped at the top of a hill near some port-o-potties while we contemplated what to do next. 

I again pleaded for help from above …  and then down a long hill, I saw some boys pulling a tarp or something to the curb.  My husband went down to ask if they needed help, he called back with a yes and we were blessed with such an opportunity to make a difference.

resized_99263-tornado-air1_55-14547_t400We met a gentleman and his three grandsons.  What was left of their home was a split into two pieces as a tree had fallen right through the roof cutting the home in half.  The yard was a disaster itself.  There were huge trees uprooted, damaging his fence, destroying his swimming pool.  What was left of his porch and gazebo were found piled here and there in the yard.  He had a huge metal carport building that was folded in half and twisted.  With our group of around 30 we were able to cut up and remove the trees.  We hauled the metal building and all sorts of wood and metal to the curb, and we also removed the swimming pool and cleared other debris. 

It was amazing to see what a group of willing people can accomplish.  Definitely much more than someone working on their own.  I broke down a few times while we were working as I sensed this man’s relief. That’s what we were there for, to offer some relief and it felt good.

We were lucky the day the tornadoes came through; we had many tornado warnings issued but they skirted around us.  Vilonia, a town just a few miles away wasn’t so lucky. I’m counting my blessings!

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