You read the newspaper articles. You see the photos. You listen to the radio reports and hear of close calls from friends of friends. But nothing — nothing — prepares you for seeing first-hand the devastation from the late-April storms that ripped through the South, decimating communities and killing more than 300 people. Such as in downtown Cullman, Alabama — a town of about 15,000 in north central Alabama east of I-65 known for its German heritage, its Oktoberfest and All Steak restaurant’s orange rolls. And now it’s known for the April 27 tornado that roared through. My friend Susan and I were stunned to speechlessness as we drove past blocks and blocks that literally looked as if they’d been bombed. We were especially struck by scenes such as the American Red Cross headquarters, clinging to the corner of a relatively minor-damaged street, that’s in no shape to shelter anybody. And the man in what was left of his backyard, doggedly replanting a vegetable garden in the midst of unbelievable destruction. Cullman — and Hackleburg and Phil Campbell and Harvest and Tuscaloosa and Smithville, Miss., as well as other towns, will rebuild and recover … and always remember.
Creative consulting/photography support: Susan Cantrell, who kept saying, “Oh, you’ve got to take that picture and put it on your blog.”
For the past few days, we’ve had storm evacuees at our house: Older Daughter with our son-in-law and 3-year-old grandson, Capt. Adorable. Their neighborhood in Huntsville, Alabama, lost power and water from this past week’s deadly storms, so they headed east to stay with family for a few days. Husband JP and I got to have them first! Oh my cookies, you know it was blissdom to have the Captain (and his parents, of course) at our house. We played trains. We looked for trains. We crashed the wagon. (This only means I pull him around town in the red wagon I pulled his mom around in 25 years ago and I go really, really fast. When appropriate, of course.) We walked to the drugstore for an ice cream cone. We went to the doughnut shop and bought doughnuts. We chased the kitty cats. We ate oranges. We cracked pistachios. He taught me how to play Dinosaur Train games on the computer. He showed me a “castle” I didn’t even know was in our town. We went to the park. We went to a playground. We jumped, bounced, slid, tickled, crab-walked, ran and swung. I didn’t have time to do official workouts while they were here, but every morning I felt as if I’d done Jillian Michaels’ 30 Day Shred, Level No. 3. Twice. Consecutively. But also I got unlimited kisses, hugs and flowers from the Captain. It’s been a long time since I’ve had such a gorgeous bunch of hand-picked blossoms. That’s worth a few aches and pains, I think. And at the end of a week when unbelievably violent weather has, tragically, ripped families apart, I’m humbly grateful that it brought our family together in safety.