April 27, 2011

I’ve had to kind of sit back and take in everything that has been going on these last two weeks.I started to write a very detailed post on my encounter with April’s Fury, but chose not to post it. I am so blessed. I am alive, I have a roof, I am a volunteer, not a victim. This is not my nightmare that I have to relive every single day. I am lucky.

I arrived in Tuscaloosa the day after the storm with a team of volunteers with Verizon Wireless. The town I called home for four years didn’t look the same. Streets hardly recognizable. Houses that past friends had once rented and lived in– houses that friends currently lived in torn apart. As I quietly sat in the back of a pick-up truck passing out bottled water and snacks, I didn’t know what to think or say. A lot of the people we encountered were numb– some, didn’t have much to begin with and now, had nothing.

After an emotional day of viewing the devastation and giving out anything we could– we headed home. I prayed. What was the state of Alabama going to do? Not only was Tuscaloosa hit– so were many other towns in Alabama. I prayed for the missing, the homeless, the hearts of the community, the state… the list continued. I heard plans of what our company was going to do and was very impressed at how quickly a plan was put into action. I heard finals were cancelled at the University as was graduation– my heart broke for the class just below me. They never imagined their college experience to end this way.

The next day I was sent to Pleasant Grove, AL– a community on the other side of Birmingham. Verizon needed my help to work our relief efforts. For the last week, I’ve been volunteering and getting to know this community. I am so so so so so very impressed with the relief efforts of so many in Birmingham.

Let me tell you a short story. Next to our trailer was a small tent set up with 120 cases of bottled water. The tent was staffed by maybe four members of the Birmingham Amateur Radio Club.  They wanted to help and so they did what they could. As I came and went from our trailer, passing out our own donations, I noticed that their donations continued to grow. They were now grilling hotdogs and passing out meals– to anyone. A few more hours went by and I noticed cars kept circling through the parking lot dropping off donations. Now the small tent next to us had expanded to not only food, but they were fully stocked with clothing and toys and other household necessities. The donations continued to pour in from people all across the city. Many people would stop by our trailer and ask if we were taking donations, yet we pointed next door. This continued all weekend. I was intrigued by the generosity, so before packing up for the evening, I made my way over to the small tent which was now surrounded by donations to thank the volunteers. The lady I spoke with was very emotional. She said “We came out here with only a few cases of water. We never planned to stay more than a few hours. We can’t really even take any more donations. God is good- he will provide for the people of Pleasant Grove.” — This is just one of the amazing stories I’ve seen unfold from this disaster.

The first picture is of a trailer of ice that arrived where a group of volunteers ran to work in an assembly line to get it into the cooler. The second picture is of a car that was taking food and other donations directly into the community. (This was very common to see).

Throughout the week several community members and VZW customers seem to all ask the same question. What image has stuck with you. Everyone’s image of course is different. I know this picture doesn’t really do it justice, but the bark on the trees is gone. I wonder how some trees much like this one are still standing where others are broken in half like matchsticks or completly uprooted and lying in someones living room.

I also can’t seem to get the image of an entire house being destroyed yet the closet in the middle of the house is still standing– with clothes neatly hanging on their respected hanger. What about the spray painted words, “We are alive”. Pieces of metal wrapped around tree trunks– a mattress stuck through a tree branch– these are now landmarks that we used to navigate.

In the end these are all peoples belongings and homes. They didn’t choose this. The road ahead of them is long and we need to continue to pray. The first responders have been great but like I said– they have a long way to go.

Until this storm–I’d never encountered a natural disaster– I’ve spoken with insurance adjusters who have seen many disasters including Hurricane Katrina. They say the devastation here is just as bad. The Country is deeming this storm one of the worst in history. I pray that the country does not forget what has happened and continues to offer it’s resources. We have built a support system for all who were affected by the storm and need to remain strong.

Again, I’d like to thank anyone reading this who has donated, volunteered, or prayed. Seeing first hand– these people are appreciative. I see progress in the small town of Pleasant Grove. The Morale of this community is amazing, too. They may have lost everything but by gosh by golly, they are going to rebuild. Thanks to my friends and family who have called to chat with me too– it’s very emotional being a volunteer. I am so thankful for where I’m at in life and feel so blessed.

One more thing– If you’d like to donate or volunteer I know there are some really amazing organizations out there that are making a huge impact in Alabama. I’m not as familiar with them as I’d like to be– but I’d be willing to help figure something out.

Published in: on May 11, 2011 at 12:29 pm  Leave a Comment  
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