Dark Memories

Seeing all this stuff on the news about the 9 states that had tornadoes last night just makes me want to cry. It reminds me so much of when I went to Alabama in May of 2011 to help clean up after the 4.19.11 tornado that left 180 miles of ruin.

Like a lot of other people, I heard tornado sirens last night.  I was with my grandma and six of my siblings and cousins. We were in the middle of dishing out dinner when I noticed the buzzing and yelled for everyone to go down stairs. when I went through the kitchen with plates and cups in my hands, I looked at the counters and saw the mass of plastic containers sitting at random. My heart thumped in my chest at in that moment so hard I could feel it on my skin. To you, this may sound ridiculous, but if you were apart of the twenty that accompanied me to Alabama, you would understand why. Most you would remember the one ‘house’ we saw. The whole front of the house was ripped off, laying in the front lawn, I assume, since there was piles of rubble laying there. You  could look into the closet and see the clothes still hanging and the weathered coach sitting aloof in the middle of a once-spacious living room. And then to the right of the couch was the kitchen. Sitting on the table, just as they had been left, were plastic containers and pop cans. Nothing had touched them, yet the whole house had no outside walls.

Bama Trip 2011 114

(This isn’t the best picture, but the closet is on the left and you can see the top of the couch on the far right.)

When I saw those containers sitting on the counter, it brought everything back. The instant I saw the destruction, the moments afterward when I still couldn’t speak, meeting the people I did, growing with the people I already knew, seeing the heartache on the victims’ faces, the joy on the other Christian victims at seeing us, the smell of everyone at the end of the week (especially ChadSmile), of finding a tattered and torn Bible amidst the rubble, of hearing the most bizarre stories of some of the survivors, of not ever wanting to leave such a ragged and torn place. It’s in scripted in my heart now, and I know I can never part from such a memory.

Right now, all I want to do is go back.

Forever in Alabama

I have really been thinking about Alabama as of late. I miss it so much still. I never ever want to forget it and how it changed me. I think of all the smashed houses, destroyed businesses, the trailer park that had nothing but three trailers still standing, the apartment building near the Lloyd' house that was smashed to bits, the feeling of when I held that Bible at the last house we worked at. I don't want to forget any of it, nor the people. Jaddie and her beautiful smile, Kevin and the way he changed, his cousin and the way he made us smile, David and his kindness, Melanie and her sweetness. They are all etched upon my heart and will never be forgotten.

I know that I was terribly tired at the end of the week that I was there, but I would have so totally stayed another week. Actually, I would have moved there, had my family permitted it. There is still so much to do, and I really feel lazy, sitting in my house, with the roof, walls, and my stuff still standing, where it belongs, too. Some people down there have no homes, lost dear ones, and are most likely sleeping in someone else' house, or in a hotel. I feel so bad for them and my stomach starts to twist in knots when I do think of how spoiled I am-we are. I don't like it, not one bit.

As Regina Lear put it, “Pieces of my heart, will be in Alabama.”

~C.J. Hines~

The Lloyds

When we were in Alabama, we worked on the house of an eighty-year-old couple. This project was so big that it took us almost two full days of work to complete. On the last day of work, at their house and in AL, we got to meet them. Mr. Nelson Lloyd brought his wife, Ruth Lloyd, and his daughter, who I didn’t get the name of. We gave him a Bible that we had all signed at lunch and big alligator tears welled up in his eyes. Love poured from him and I will never forget how humbling it was to have met him.

Mr. Lloyd was a wood carver, and he did fantastic work. He let us go into his garage, which was his workshop, and take anything we wanted, and the rest was going to a second hand store. He made beautiful carvings in the shape of states that said the names and had objects of that certain state. He made plates that I got to take home, as smooth as you please. There were two big plates and two small ones. I also brought home puzzles of dinosaurs that he made to my younger brothers.

I will never forget this kind hearted man

~C.J.

Jaddie & David

While in Alabama, we met a man named David. He was a very kind gentleman who couldn’t clean the logs up that were in his yard. He asked us for our help and we went to work right away, picking up logs and putting them into a pile. He had his granddaughter there, Jaddie, and she was the sweetest little girl I have ever met in my life. She had the cutest smile and let us hold her, not long after we first met Jaddie. She was fifteen months old and lived with her mother and David. Even through all the mess, she could smile, because of her innocence. She made even us smile, so I am sure that she made a few of the victims feel happy, at least for a little while.

We should all take a less from little Jaddie, and bring hope to someone who doesn’t have any, even through our bleak times. This can only be possible through the help of a loving Savior, named Jesus Christ. He will help you, but only if you are willing.

~C.J.

Kevin Rice

I just got back from Alabama and now, I don’t think that I will ever be the same. The destruction there is more than heart breaking. Whatever you have imagined that it would look like, think ten times worst. I hadn’t really imagined what it would look like, but when I got there, I couldn’t say anything, for minutes afterward. It is so hard to process it all after you see the miles of disaster that the tornado left in it’s tracks. It seems like the mess never ends. Never. There is no beginning or end to it, just a mess that feels impossible to clean up. Steps led up to nowhere. Doors hanging in trees. Houses smashed. Trees everywhere. Hugh piles of debris on every side of the road. It makes me want to cry in desperation for those people who lost everything, some even their lives or friends and family. I just start to shake thinking about it. It silences me. It breaks my heart. It stings my eyes.

Even through the mess, we changed lives down there. We met a boy named Kevin Rice who lost his father and dog in the tornado. When we first saw him, Kevin didn’t talk much. He didn’t smile of laugh. He didn’t show hardly any emotion at all, except depression. We saw him the next day and he talked a ton, smiled at us, and even laughed with us. He changed just because the glory of God surrounded us, and I hope he comes to realize that that is what was different about us.