It’s been awhile. It’s been quiet here.
I’ve been quiet. My mind has been quiet. My body has been still. Finally. Still, in the sense of not moving. No vibrations, no fluttering. No undulations or perturbations. Just still.
A layer of me, my peace and calm sensibilities, peeled off a few weekends ago when I was waiting in the airport in St Louis, trying to get out of dodge to visit my boyfriend. Trying; I say that, as if I were going to be the one flying the plane. One thing I’ve learned is that nothing is in my control when it comes to traveling by air, especially when living in the land of tornados and flash floods. I was scared as I hid in the bathroom at the airport, not knowing that indeed, the tornado had just wrecked havoc on the main terminal. Needless to say, the 2011 Tornado of St Louis ruined my weekend plans, but I am thankful that it was only marginal damage and that no one was seriously hurt. Walking outside that night, taking a taxi home instead of the airplane to Houghton, just felt odd. There were trees uprooted and thrown across the highways, there were vehicles dangling off parking structure roofs. Windows were blown out of cars and bus stops, and it was strangely, eerily, calm.
Yet, even after experiencing that, I still can’t imagine what it must have been like for those who experienced the tornado that just ripped through Joplin, Missouri, yesterday afternoon.
Things like that, things like freak storms and mile-wide tornados; stuff like that is hard to grasp. Those who see the damage in real life say that it’s not something you can ever imagine. It’s not real, until you see it. And it’s not real, at least not for me or for you, really- because our lives go on without more than a flinch or a twinge of sadness after looking at the photos and videos online. Our houses are still standing and our lights are still working. Our beds are comfortable and dry and covered by a ceiling, surrounded by four walls. Our neighbor is still sheltered with a roof over his head and the trees are still planted firmly in our yards. But for the people of Joplin, their families and their loved ones, it’s all very real. The giant that came out of the sky, that stomped their neighborhood down to a sheet of paper, they saw it. It arrived at their doorstep and they didn’t have a choice, they couldn’t turn it away or pretend like they weren’t home. It came through their neighborhoods, without invitation and without warning, and it ruined their weekend plans. For many, it ruined their lives. For many, it took their lives.
It’s difficult to imagine what something like this – something so natural yet so devastating, something that causes an entire city to be torn apart, layer by layer – is. Something that leaves you raw, exposed, completely vulnerable. Yet at the same time, knowing that it is over – watching as the sun comes out, yet again – brings a sense of calm and quiet. It’s an unwelcome quiet for some.
At first, it looks like something from Resident Evil, or some other apocalyptic zombie-type movie. But it’s not the movies, not for the people of Joplin. It’s real, raw, all the layers are gone and the emotions are just primal. Instinctual.
Below is one of my favorite photos from today’s images online. A couple’s joy as they find their beloved pet, amidst the rubble and debris. The smiles, the tears, and hugs. The relief. The layers are off and it’s like they are drunk with happiness.
I know not everyone in Joplin could experience this same sense of peace at finding the ones they love. Over 100 people are dead, and many of those who survived do not have homes to call their own any longer. It’s hard enough being alone, but being homeless too? All of a sudden, literally, in as much time as it takes to snap your fingers, your life can be changed forever.
Please check out the Joplin, MO Tornado Recovery Facebook page for information on ways to help those in Joplin. Askinosie Chocolate is donating 15% from its retail sales to the Joplin rescue and recovery needs, and the United Way of Missouri is taking donations and registering volunteers.