Sunday, February 17, 2013

My Tornado Week

As I prepared to share my experiences from this past week, I realized how hard it was for me to write about something other than movies. While it excited me to realize my improvements in writing about movies, I was a little worried that I couldn't formulate a way to talk about my regular life. On Sunday, many of my friends in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, had their lives tossed around for fifteen seconds and changed forever. While I sat comfortably in bed at my parents house, a tornado rolled through the densely populated area that I currently call home, and, for the first time in my almost two years of blogging, it is time for a post that has absolutely nothing to do with movies. Due to my inability to completely collect my thoughts, this post may be a bit random, but hang in there.

As time passed on Sunday night, the pictures and videos continued to appear on The Weather Channel, CNN, and our local NBC channel, but there was nothing I could do. It was late, and the roads were covered with no telling what. Without the daylight to guide their way, most people were blocked from helping or even assessing the damage. I felt helpless, not for myself, but for the people who didn't "live two houses over." I wanted to go pick everyone up in my tiny Chevy Cavalier, cook them some food, and give them my bed, but there was nothing I could do. The problem wasn't going to be fixed in one day, one week, or one month. All I could think was "Somebody out there doesn't know how much God loves them," "Somebody doesn't know that everything is going to be ok," and "Why couldn't it have been me in their place?". So I watched the TV and looked for ways to help in the days to come. Then, I slept.

On Monday morning, a little over twelve hours after the tornado hit, I headed to Hattiesburg, and I dreaded seeing ANY of the destruction that I knew would. As I arrived, via I-59, I could easily see where the tornado crossed the interstate and some of the destruction it had caused. Much of my day was spent doing school work and figuring out what I could do to help on Tuesday. There was very little road access, until later in the day, making it difficult to reach the people who needed help. So, I finished the school work that needed to be completed before returning to class and prepared to get my hands dirty on Tuesday. As usual, I spent a lot of time on Facebook, but, this time, I was trying to make folks aware of various opportunities to help those in need. Also, the pictures were hard to resist. The streets I travel on a weekly basis were changed forever, and, as much as it disgusted me, my eyes were drawn to the destruction.

Tuesday was my favorite day of the entire week, as I actually had the chance to go out and help people that I didn't even know. Luckily, all of my close friends and relatives had little to no damage, so I had the ability to help strangers. Their gratitude and smiles made the entire day worth while. If you know me, you know that I do not enjoy physical labor, but, for once, I was ready and willing to do whatever was needed of me. I remember my desire and inability to help the people in Joplin, MO, when the tornado hit there a couple of years ago, but, now, I had a chance to help folks in my back yard. I don't say these things to sound holy or happy about what happened. Rather, I want to show how satisfying it can be for any of you reading this to get out a serve the people in your community. Whether there is a tornado or not, people in your community can use your help, so be ready and willing to assist those around you. After helping clean up one house, I happened to pass by the university for the first time, on my way to lunch. I am not uber romantic, but I like to think that I can be at times. Also, I do not share my emotions with most people, so it is rare that you will hear me talk about things like this. Anyway, there are three things in life that really get at me, on an emotional level. 1) Baseball... the game that my father taught me to adore, which just makes you feel better about life in general. 2) The Movies... a place where you can go, put your life on pause, and participate in someone else's for a while. 3) The campus at The University of Southern Mississippi... a place full of life and excitement, where many of my memories are stored. My campus life began as soon as I was born, as evident by the photos of little me at football games in my black and gold. When I decided to head to USM for my undergrad, I don't think it was much of a surprise to anyone. However, it was a surprise to me when I truly fell in a love with the university that I had admired my entire life. Very few things can put a smile on my face like a walk across campus on a cool, spring day, and, many times, I have relied on those walks to do so. So, when I saw the front of MY campus, post-tornado, it was very, very tough to swallow. Had I seen pictures? Of course. But, they just don't compare. Originally, I thought that I had made it through the tornado without losing anything of my own, but I was wrong. I lost trees, an old house, a few windows, some little pillars on top of my entrance, the light that tells me I can cross Hardy St. and go to class, and so much more. I know that so, so many people lost so, so much in this tornado, but almost everyone in Hattiesburg, MS, lost something. For me, it was the ability to be romantic about my campus for a while. Right now, it just saddens me.

Wednesday, I sat at work from 8:30 to 5, bored out of my mind, waiting for another customer to desire my expertise in the area of analyzing swimming pool water. Normally, I find work fulfilling, and I believe that I enjoy earning money more than most people. However, Wednesday was much different, and that sense of fulfillment was nowhere to be found. Instead, I desired to be in the neighborhood where I was on Tuesday, lending a helping hand. Nobody needs their pool in the middle of February, but everyone needs a warm home. I was never able to comprehend why I had to waste my time at work that day, but it was what had to be done. After I got off, as the sun was going down, I went to eat at my girlfriend's house, where she discussed her day of clean up at the university. I was very jealous, but I didn't want to seem holier-than-thou, so I kept it to myself. Then, I came home and started writing this story about my tornado week, hoping it might influence somebody's day, whenever I decided to post it. As I wrote, all I could think was "Why did this happen?". I was trying, in my logic-filled brain, to explain to myself the unexplainable. Then, I was reminded that there were no fatalities, and that got me thinking that maybe God just needed something to wake us up. There are so many situations where it is a total miracle that somebody survived. Maybe, God just wanted to say "Hey, you! Look at my power and my grace!".

On Thursday, February 14, America's day of monetary love, it was time to get back to class. I was able to avoid the front of campus, but the day was just so weird, as everything was just kind of off. However, I did have the chance to cook for my lovely girlfriend. This day made me very thankful for her and her love, as she was only about half a mile from the tornado when it came through the Oak Grove area. You never know what might happen, so you shouldn't wait for a "day of love" to show those around you that you love them. That's what I got out of Valentine's Day this year. Also, the sun came out on Thursday. FINALLY!!!

While I did have to work on Friday, the day actually felt pretty normal for the first time since the tornado hit. I realized that we will all get used to seeing the homes that were destroyed, just like we did after Hurricane Katrina. It's just going to take some time. The highlight of Friday was the first USM baseball game! Like I said before, baseball makes me happy. So, I was excited to be happy, after a fairly sad week. After my third romanticized thing was hurt by a tornado, it was nice to have my first romanticized thing swoop in and save the day. I froze my buns off, but we won the game and the day!

Early Saturday morning, over 200 volunteers met at my church, First Hattiesburg, to help with clean up from the tornado. Once again, I was saddened by the fact that I couldn't be there to help, but, you know, stupid work! Regardless, I was excited to hear that my church was continuing to make such an impact in the community. I am so thankful to be a part of such a great church family, and it gives me a great sense of peace, knowing that they would be there for me, if I were in need. Also, on Saturday, I finished writing this synopsis of my tornado week. It is already nice to look back on this event and reflect, not only on the events of this week, but also on how they have had an impact on my life.

While my story may not be as interesting or relevant as someone who lost their house, car, church, or pet, it is a story that I wanted to share. I wanted something to look back on, as I remembered this event, later in my life. So, I hope that you found something that helped you in some way. Whether that help came from my words, my actions, my thoughts, or my prayers, I hope I helped. Don't be fooled into thinking that you can't help or that the work has already been done. Get out and help! Nobody can make this stuff go away, but we can all try to help.

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