BY ZOE AMOS
Last week, tornadoes ripped through the heart of Texas. My friend, LW, a resident of Cleburne, huddled in the closet with her husband as their roof blew off. If you scream in a tornado and no one can hear it, not even you, did the sound leave your throat? Did the wind carry it to a distant place where it was quiet enough to be heard?
I uttered that moan the moment I got the news. Sadness filled me and my energy drained through my feet into the earth. Fortunately, they survived. Their home may be deemed a scrape and they will have to start again. They are better off than some of their neighbors, worse off than others. Rain soaked their possessions. It remains to be seen what is salvageable. Whatever they had planned for the next six months, a year, most likely longer, will take a new direction as they rebuild their home and their lives.
I remember the horrible spring conditions growing up in Michigan referred to as tornado weather. When we were lucky, the siren that normally sounded at twelve o’clock on Sundays would go off, warning us to take cover. The sky would change from dark grey to a sick green color. The barometric pressure would plunge, infusing us with a creepy discomfort, a heaviness, as if the atmosphere had attained an excess of gravity; and surely it had, judging by our furrowed brows. We had been taught to wait it out in the southeast corner of our basements. Many times hail would clatter against the windows and lightening boomed before we could count to one. It was a scary time for me as a child and I said good riddance to foul weather when I moved away.
In Southern California where I now live, we are one week away from the official start of fire season. We take preparedness instruction seriously. Fire has swept through the San Diego area on a grand scale several times in the past decade. We are advised to have water, canned food, radio, pet carriers, medications, etc., at the ready to grab and go should the need arise. The only reason my sister didn’t lose her house is because the firemen stood next to it while battling the ferocious Cedar wildfire. The three homes next to hers burned to the ground.
Given a few moments to evacuate, most people say they would fill their cars with photo albums, their computers, and irreplaceable sentimental or meaningful items. The folks in Texas, and now Oklahoma, didn’t have that option. Their lives and the lives of their loved ones — pets included — top any list, and now, that’s all many of them have. Some have less.
As I look around my home, I wonder how I would feel if suddenly, all my possessions, and perhaps the house itself, were gone forever. Grateful to be alive — yes. Grateful to have owned a home — yes. Grateful to be able to rebuild — a begrudging yes.
We do rebuild, not only our environs, but ourselves. We prop ourselves back up with the help of our support systems and our communities. Sometimes we look at these horrible situations as new beginnings, a way to start again elsewhere. It’s hard to endure any tragedy and imagine a better life on the other side. Any loss, whether it’s your home, a job, a relationship, or a loved one, comes with its time of mourning, followed by rebuilding.
The tornadoes touched down in the heart of Texas and Oklahoma, but they also touched the heart of a nation. Caring persons in all fifty states reached out as neighbors do. America transformed into a big, small town. People gave food, shelter, money and they gave blood. We feel compassion for those whose spirits have been pummelled, but like the spring, our hearts rise up like new seedlings from the wind-swept ground.
Zoe Amos brings her lesbian point of view to articles and stories on diverse topics. Connect with her on Facebook and Twitter. Read her stories on Kindle and Nook. Check out her other life at www.janetfwilliams.com