I was standing on the stairs of the band room when I heard the news that the Challenger had blown up. I still remember that moment.
I was driving my car to work when I heard on the radio that the twin towers had been bombed. My brother lived in New York City at the time. We couldn’t get through to him for two days. He watched the towers burn from the roof of his apartment. I still remember that day.
I was watching TV with my husband and parents in my parent’s rental house near my brother’s in Vermont when my phone went off with a tornado warning. So I checked the weather predictions. And there were supercells forming in the Rowlett area. My family told me not to worry, that it would be fine. But something in my heart said it wouldn’t. I was compelled to pray in a way I had not prayed in a long time. That God would get people to safety. That He would instruct them to do what they needed to do to stay safe, even if it was bizarre, even if it was something they would never do. We watched a show on TV because I was reminded that worrying would not change anything. But I knew. I can’t forget that day. And it has taken me three months to even write this.
I checked after the show, hoping in my heart I was wrong. And my spirit sank. An F4 tornado had ripped through Rowlett, my second home in Texas. I see Rowlett through the trees and across the lake from my backyard. I go to church there, the gym there, I get my hair done there, I shop there. Many of my friends live there.
And it was chaos, and I could not tell truly that my home across the lake was safe, or my dogs at the vet were safe. Later I learned they were, but houses were razed 3 miles from ours. I didn’t actually breathe until I heard from our vet the next morning our dogs were OK. But many pets weren’t. I must have stayed up half the night watching pictures of lost and found animals get posted, and doing my best to share them. Yes, it was obsessive, but if it had been my animals, I would have wanted someone to be obsessive for me. I can’t forget that day. Or the next one. Or the one after that.
My life has been irrevocably altered. And my house, and my friends, and my animals are fine. But I am not fine. 3 months later and the world has moved on. Even the town I live in (Rockwall) seems to have moved on. But I have not, I am still stuck in the middle of Rowlett’s story. I still drive by buildings that are half standing, roofs with blue patchwork, businesses that have been destroyed. I still interact with people who were not as fortunate as us.
This is, to some degree, self centered, this not being fine when my house is fine. I have a wicked case of survivor’s guilt. Before you think too much of that from me, know that I have spent a lot of time trying to help with relief efforts, in ways that I can (more on that another time). In a small way, this helps me cope with the reality that life is so very fragile. But more than that, I have been compelled to help in a way that is unusual, even for me. I have stepped outside my tired zone and helped. Because, for some odd reason I have yet to completely grasp, God asked me to. And He gave me the energy to do it.
My first thought is, if you are fortunate, you have not had any of this type of defining moments. The ones that get burned in your brain in such a way that everything else can swirl around them, and they stand firm as a rock. But perhaps, not having had any, a person would live a very still quiet life, never knowing how small and fragile we really are. And how miraculous it is that things go as well as they do, day to day.
What’s more, I got the privilege to watch the most amazing thing. I got to watch beauty from ashes. I got to watch a community come together and help each other. I got to see Jesus walk this earth through other people. And that is a story for later. Or maybe tomorrow, or next month. We shall see. As I said, I am still stuck in Rowlett’s story.