As I crested that same hill on day 2 of my efforts there, a certain realization sunk in. This town will never be the same. Although the scars of the land may heal in time, the emotional devastation to the core of such a tiny community runs deep. And day 2 in Hackleburg introduced me to more survivors that left me thankful for such an incredible opportunity. I can't bring myself to use the words "amazing" or "awesome" to describe the past couple days. It almost seems irreverent. But somehow, those words fit in many ways.
Amazing. I am amazed at the enormity of the destruction left behind by such a brief weather event. I am amazed at the fortitude of the townspeople I met--many of whom are elderly--and how they braved the storm in closets, hallways, and storm cellars. The response to the situation is amazing to me. The food tents set up on each corner next to semis loaded with supplies... from toiletries and clothing to many obscure things you'd never think about needing unless you had lost everything you owned. And mostly, I am amazed at the power of touch. A handshake, a hug, a touch on the arm to say "You are not alone. Help is here." In so many ways, I stand amazed at what I witnessed in that town.
Awesome. Even though the results were catastrophic, one cannot deny the awesome power of the weather cell that swept through the South on April 27. Awe-inspiring photos of the storm on the horizon continue to take my breath away. But to me, the most awesome part of the past couple days was the power of teamwork. A couple of us would see a homeowner working alone and stop by to offer help. And, without fail, what started as three of us sorting through the rubble grew to dozens of individuals from all over the country working together to make order were there once was none. Friendships were made, smiles were exchanged and a true feeling of community was felt. I will most likely never see any of those folks again...but for a brief time we shared a very important mission. That, to me, is awesome.
Now, as I try to insert myself into my normal routine and the task of being a wife, mother, daughter, sister and friend, I realize that a profound change has taken place within me. And the woman who is never at a lack for words simply cannot come up with the right words to explain it. Something is different. Something has changed about the way I view my surroundings. I look at the basket of Sharpie markers that I hold so dear and know that, in an instant, they could be strown miles from here. The dishes, and toys and knick-knacks that I spent time picking out to decorate my home could one day be wet and broken and tossed on a pile of rubbish by a woman named Sharon from Louisiana. It certainly puts the stresses of daily life and managing a home into perspective.
I am grateful for my time in Hackleburg...and that is not the last they have seen of me. There is much to be done. At some point the debris will be gone, the land cleared, some buildings rebuilt but the people affected by this storm will be forever changed. There are needs that go beyond toilet paper and bottled water. My greatest hope for Hackleburg is that this town will rebuild and thrive again.
That is my sincerest hope.