Hello darkness, my old friend
I’ve come to talk with you again
Because a vision softly creeping
Left its seeds while I was sleeping
And the vision that was planted in my brain
Within the sound of silence.
Email received Friday at 11:19 pm from PaulaFOD:
As you’ve heard, we were hit really hard in my area, and have not had electricity. I am in Nashville tonight, staying with friends….so I am sending you an article I wrote…with the recap as promised, but also including the story from the Wednesday’s storms. You are in no obligation to use it since it is so long, but it was cathartic for me to write it. I have a CD of the pictures Mickey took Monday night with me, but since I am borrowing the computer, I’m not sure how to get some pics to you. I may have to send them later.
A Week in April, 2011
This week, the last week in April, 2011, has taught me about life and joy, friendship and family, fear and hope. I’ve learned about the hardships of the people in Uganda, and I have seen devastation in my own community. I’ve made new friends that are special to me, and I’ve huddled with old friends seeking shelter from tornadoes that tore through the state of Alabama. And…I talked to David Archuleta. This has been a week.
On Monday, I attended the Invisible Children Event in Nashville at Lipscomb University. I was so excited – silly excited – that David was in Nashville, only 2 1/2 hours away from my home in Alabama. I was also happy to support Invisible Children, a charity close to David’s heart. We got there early, probably too early since no one was there yet except the people setting up, but it gave me time to meet some new friends (all of them Archies, and all of them fantastic!) and spend time talking with them. We heard a familiar voice rehearsing inside, and I could just get a glimpse of the big screen in the venue – David! All of us were more excited than ever! As other attendees began to arrive, we honored the time to be silent, and waited quietly. As we entered the Allen Arena, the silence was touching, respectful. The countdown began. When the time came to “Break the Silence”, David ran on stage with others participating in the event. Oh joy! He looked so happy – and that thrilled me!
I’m sure you have all seen the livestream videos of the event, so you know how amazing he was! His voice was so strong, so pure, so sincere. He was completely comfortable on that stage, and it translated into a powerful performance. His voice reached every part of the arena. “Gotta Get Through This” was fierce and full of Archu-growls. Wow. TOSOD, perfect. “My Hands”, the best I’ve ever heard. “Prayer of the Children”, the first time I’ve heard it live, was stunningly beautiful. Every song held power and he interacted with the audience as if we were old friends just spending time together. The last song,”Sound of Silence”, the duet with Landon Pigg, was touching and poignant. It was over all too soon.
Since the crowd was relatively small, I would guess not more than 200, we decided to wait inside the venue for a while, hoping that David would come out and we could speak with him. We asked if he could meet with the small group of us who waited….and it happened! We were allowed to step into the backstage area and have a time for autographs and pictures; and I took the opportunity to tell David that many Archies sent their love to him and that we were there to support him, and he thanked you all! He smiled as he said this, and I lost the ability to speak coherently after that. It was joyous! I floated home, sending tweets along the way as my husband drove. I slept a few hours, and on Tuesday I relived the joy of the previous night while trying to concentrate at work. I stayed up until midnight, working along with my husband to get pictures ready to share with my new friends, FOD and The Voice.
At 4:30 on Wednesday morning, my husband and I were awakened by the first tornado siren of the day. We are cautious, but not alarmed by the threat of severe weather. Our area has seen tornadoes before, but we had no idea that this day would be historic in its devastation to our community and to the state of Alabama.
I took shelter in the basement of the church twice that day, all in all spending around four and a half hours seeking refuge in a safe place from the storms. Only once before in my life have I sought this kind of refuge, but this day was different. I stepped out of my office during the third tornado siren of the day to see rotating clouds coming straight toward downtown Moulton, straight toward my town, and co-workers and I ran to the church basement, 2 blocks from my office. I found out later that this rotation formed a tornado approximately two miles from my office, flattening a barn, killing some of the animals inside. The all clear was given and I returned to work, knowing that my husband, daughter, and son-in-law were all in
towns to the west of me, and every storm that passed me headed straight for them. We called each other, texted each other….”take shelter!”, “be safe”, “are you OK?”
I returned to work and streamed constant weather information on my computer as I tried to focus. Cities across the state were hit hard, downtown areas taking direct hits, people laying in the street, cries for help from neighboring cities and towns. Many of Moulton’s emergency workers headed these cries for help, not knowing that our community, too, would soon be hit.
Moulton is a small town, surrounded by even smaller communities. Each community has a name, each community filled with co-workers, people we go to church with, people we attend school with, friends, family. At around 3:45, through the wail of the tornado siren we heard these communities named…directly in the path of a confirmed tornado on the ground, extensive damage reported, serious storm. Estimated time of arrival to Moulton, 10 minutes. I took the time to alert co-workers, call family, prepare to leave. I ran through constant lightning, wind that tossed me forward, then back. A man speaking into a microphone walked by me, staring at the sky. A truck with flashing lights rode by as if trying to alert people to take shelter. There was an odd color to the entire town, almost yellow. The tornado siren wailed, people ran. It was surreal.
I spent the next 3 1/2 hours in the basement of our church with people I’ve known for years and people I’d never met. One lady cried quietly: she had lost her home in one of the first communities in our area hit by the tornado. We were all calm. We were all patient. Children played. Babies slept. We encouraged each other. We lost power, and huddled in the dark, listening to a small battery operated police scanner as rescue workers rushed to help those hit by the tornado, even as more storms, like waves in an ocean, beat upon them. They were heroic. We had a copy of our church directory, and when the scanner announced a fatality, we looked for the address of church members we knew lived near that particular address, hoping it was not them, hearts breaking because someone was now gone. Finally, the storms passed. My family was safe; I was safe; I was blessed.
At the time I am writing this, there have been nearly 300 deaths, 13 of these in my community. Many more are missing in Tuscaloosa, two hours south of here. Most of northern Alabama has no power, and it is predicted that it will be at least 5-6 days before power is restored. Today is Friday.
It is fitting that the first day of this week was Easter Sunday, a celebration of resurrection and renewal and new beginnings. Our state has already begun to pull itself up from the destruction of Wednesday. I am so grateful for the Monday that brought me such joy!! Wednesday taught me that life is short, that storms come, and to love your family and the people you are blessed to know. Thank you to all of you who were so concerned about me and my family, it means more than you know. Now the last week in April, 2011 will come to an end.
The good news is that there will be more Mondays…days of joy and excitement,anticipation and surprises. Thank you all for letting me share them with you!