Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Life.

There are times in my life when I feel unbreakable.

I feel strong. I can survive anything. I am happy.

Unfortunately, there are times when I have breakable moments. Moments when I feel like I cannot move forward with life. My heart and body ache from emotional, mental, and physical exhaustion.

I am grateful that at those moments, although I feel like I cannot move forward... LIFE does move forward. It takes you along with it, helping you to move forward. It is a reminder that indeed you can get through those moments. You DO move on. Life moves on. And at some point in time you heal from the ache that you felt at that breakable moment.

You can then look back and realize just how strong you really are... which in turn gives you the confidence to feel truly unbreakable again.

That is until the next breakable moment occurs.


Those of you who know us... who know me are probably very aware of a few breakable moments in our lives the past few weeks. I can honestly say that they have been some of the hardest weeks I have been through. This may take up multiple posts, but they are memories I never want to forget. They have strengthened me... even though at the moment I am absolutely exhausted and still trying to take in all that has happened.

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Wednesday, April 27, 2011

The day and week that followed is still a blurr in my mind. So sorry if this ends up a jumbled mess. It is more for my journal account of things.

Tuesday's weather report warned us of storms coming in... specifically tornadoes. You never really know what will happen or what is in store as far as weather reports go... I end up taking them with a grain of salt.

As JC was getting ready for work Wednesday morning it was raining... (You don't know rain unless you have lived in the South. Southern rain is like someone dumping a bucket over your head... repeatedly for twenty or so minutes or as long as the storm lasts.) The rain/thunder/lightening is so loud it is almost impossible to hear the tornado sirens just down the street.

I've gotten somewhat used to this kind of noise and was trying to sleep through it. JC had the tv in our bedroom on and was listening to the news. He woke me up telling me to get Zenock and Kamden and get in the closet... This was about 6:30 in the morning.

I DID NOT want to drag my kids out of bed that early... we waited it out a bit until the reports said things were all clear. JC left for work a little late. The next round of storms were supposed to come in later that afternoon around 1:30 or so.

I needed to take a few things back to the mall and it seemed to be pretty clear skies that morning, so we got ready and headed out around 10:30. After the mall we went to Target to do some quick shopping. Skies were starting to go grey and I knew I needed to get back home before the "big storms" hit, but I thought I had plenty of time.

I was swiping my card at the check out when the lights started flickering; going on and off. They came on the loud speaker and told everyone to head to the center of the building. A few seconds later they told us to all head towards the bakery area. They ushered us into the meat locker... apparently, the "safest place." My boys and I were all in shorts so we were FREEZING. They offered us water and clean deli white coats to wear and to wrap the kids up in. We ended up staying in the freezer for about 20-30 minutes. Everyone was SO sweet helping with the boys and making sure they were covered up.

At this point in time... I was thinking, "This is kind of exciting. I get to go home and tell JC I rode out the tornado in the Target meat locker... he'll never believe me." I had someone take a picture with my phone... for the memory. I then thought, "That's it... last storm for the day."

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We should've stayed in the locker or at least in the store, but, since I had already checked out... I didn't want to go wander the store, my thoughts were that I needed to get home. It was still pouring (buckets) of rain outside. I waivered for a minute and then decided to just go for it and ran to the car... literally, drenching us all. The wind was blowing like crazy and I had to hang onto the kart and grab it a couple of times as it started to blow away. I threw the kids and bags into the car.

Driving home was an adventure in itself. Kamden was screaming - Zenock was asking a hundred questions, and I could barely see out the window from all the rain. I cranked up the Primary music (the only thing that gets them quiet in the car), said a quick prayer, and tried to get home. The first road was closed... flooded. I turned around. By this time all the street lights are out -it is a VERY busy area of town. I drove down another street to get home and had to drive under telephone poles that were halfway down and ready to fall at any given minute. Huge trees were uprooted all over. I was swerving around them. I pulled into our subdivision and was in shock... fences were blown everywhere, there were outhouses sitting in the middle of lawns that were blown there from 2 blocks away, siding and chunks of shingles had been blown off. It was also garbage day and trash cans and garbage had been blown everywhere. As I pulled onto our street it was just drizzling. Everyone had ventured outside surveying the damage. I was on the phone with JC and was crying seeing all that had happened since I had left that morning. Our neighbors siding was completely ripped off as well as a big tree in the back yard fell through their window.
(Our home spared with only very minor damage.)

Other neighbors had windows that were broke out from the wind. Fences blown down. Shingles had been blown off of roofs in patches. Trees uprooted everywhere. The new construction home behind our house was framed in and ready for brick work... it was completely destroyed. In all honesty, it was something you see in a movie - not something you witness in your own neighborhood.

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(That's part of an outhouse - ripped apart; next to the house)

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(Blue tarps on roofs and fences blown all over are still a very common sight all over town.)

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(The end of one of the tornadoes...)

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From what the neighbors say, the tornado went pretty much over the top of us... not touching down, but creating a microburst of wind. They said you could feel the power and strength of the wind as you were sitting inside... it sent vibrations throughout your home.

I was glad to be home, but also very glad that I was in the meat locker for this one... I may have been freaking out.

JC was on lock down at work as well... They were given a half hour to leave before they were going to be on lock down again due to the next storm system rolling in. He took the chance and was able to get home.

The day didn't end there nor was that the worst of the storm.

Thank goodness for our weather radio... A MUST have living here. The power was out and it was the only thing telling us what was going on. The weather radio siren as well as the tornado sirens outside were going off about every 10-15 minutes for the rest of the day until 8 or so.

The words "Tornado on the ground..." will forever ring in my ears. Especially, when you know exactly where they are talking about.

There were some incredibly scary moments throughout the afternoon.

-Watching the sky turn from a normal rainy cloudy day sky to dark and eery green.
(The sky would do this in Texarkana also... it gives me chills.)
-Watching the lightening/thunder go off every 2 seconds.
IT was SO loud. At one point JC was standing on the front porch watching the sky, Zenock was in the closet, and I was yelling at JC from our bedroom door while holding Kamden, telling JC to get inside. They were saying it was right over us. All of a sudden the loudest rip of lightening I have ever heard crashed. JC and I both jumped. He slammed the door shut and we jumped in the closet. It was terrifying.


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(Hanging out in the closet. They did so well!)

By the end of the day... word of mouth (no power) was already getting around that there were touchdowns within a mile and a half of where we live.

A lot of the national media has focused their attention on Tuscaloosa, because that is where the college is and so many were killed. The tornado that hit there was an F-4.

The Tornado that hit our area (less than two miles away) was determined to be an F-5. It left a six mile stretch and a mile and a half wide path... it went right through homes and subdivisions. There aren't very many videos out there of the one that hit our area. It was hidden by a wall cloud (rain) and came up over the hill.

We went to bed Wednesday night... not sleeping very much... none of us.

Sirens were ringing in our ears all night long, we were waking up at every little sound. Kamden got up 5 times at least. It was the worst night, ever. I hit one of those breaking moments. I hadn't slept at all... I was exhausted. Around 5, I handed Kamden to JC and told him I couldn't do it. I needed to sleep. I then cried myself to sleep.

As we got up Thursday morning... reality was faced. No power meant no hot shower and no hot breakfast... even our cold food wouldn't last very long.

We headed out to drive around a bit and check things out. We didn't get to far... most roads were blocked with uprooted trees or downed power lines. At one point in our drive, what we did see was shocking. My thoughts tried to say it wasn't real and I kept asking when I would wake up... (Another breaking moment for me.)

I looked out over the stretch of land and saw a subdivision that wasn't there anymore. It was in an area where JC and I looked at buying a home. A beautiful area. It was a drive we took many times. It was all gone.

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(Notice the telephone tower... ripped apart and rolled into a ball.)

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(Part of the tornado went right through)

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Being up all night and seeing what had happened, my emotions were so raw and close to the surface. You do not ever plan on this in your life. Even though you are taught to prepare for things like this... You can never be fully prepared. There is nothing you can do when the worst of it hits you.

JC is the elders quorum president in our ward... After we got home he and another elder in the our ward (who had a full tank of gas - gas stations weren't open either) headed out to start checking on people and to see where they could help. They came across many people who just needed a shoulder to cry on or someone to listen to them. Some of them had just lost everything - even family members. One person they talked to found his neighbor lying in the gutter after the storm. Awful, awful stories that just play on you emotionally. You can only take in so much. It is exhausting.

We spent part of the day going from store to store seeing what was open (store were running on generators). We were trying to find propane and a few misc items. There were lines of 100 people or more for propane and when Friday came and a couple of the gas stations opened you had to wait in line for 2 hours or more to buy gas. (People got mean waiting in line.. we are talking threats.)

The power thing was a big deal.

We ended up being without power for SIX days...

Breakfasts and most of our meals were cooked on our grill. We boiled water for the boys baths on the grill. We went to bed when the sun went down. We spent most of our days outside.
IT was a LONG six days.

An estimated 615,000 people were without power. We never would have survived without good friends. They lucked out and (for our benefit) live just off the power grid from where we are... or the next town over.

At our lowest point JC had just gone down to the airport on our last few gallons of gas to see how much tickets were to Utah... $700 ONE way! All though even with the outrageous price gauging... the thought was considered. Our suitcases were packed and in the car. We wanted to leave - even the thought of just heading down to the beaches in Florida for a few days seemed to be an awesome idea. We scrapped both ideas... mainly, the thought of leaving anyone in need. We felt like if we left we would be abandoning them. There were and are many who are still in need. JC had already gone out every morning trying to help with clean up and help with anything that was needed. He was organizing clean ups with the ward and stake. I am so proud of him and the way he handled things. He took charge, went out, and would've helped anyone who needed it. He came home each day telling me the stories of others and who were so thankful for his help.

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(What's left of a gas station.)

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(A piggly wiggly grocery store.)


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(I thought my brick home would keep me safe... apparently not.)

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(The spray paint on the side of homes meant the storm had claimed a life in that home.)

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(Notice the foundations where homes once were. One home JC saw the foundation had been picked up and thrown into the house behind it.)

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(Hanging clothes on the downed power lines...)

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The hardest hit area was inaccessible. They weren't allowing anyone in or near the subdivisions. They were still trying to find people and the subdivisions themselves were so bad you couldn't get to them.

Friday afternoon, we showed up on our friends doorstep completely unannounced... (our cell phones were dead by that point.) They took us in, fed us pancakes (per Zenock's request), and let us just zone out and watch the news. It was the first media news we had caught of what happened. We were stunned to see what had happened not only so close to home, but all over Alabama and other states. Over 300 killed by the storms and even 600 still missing at the last report. The reports say that there were over 270 touchdowns in Alabama alone.

Our friends let us crash at their house for three afternoons... letting us do laundry, give our children baths, feeding us delicious food, etc.

We will forever be in debt to them!
After we felt broken... they literally helped build us back up.
I cannot say "Thank You" enough.

It was a weird feeling being in your home surrounded by all of your "stuff" that you couldn't use anymore. It didn't feel like home... it was just a house and things were just that - things. I know now why people are able to just pick up and leave after something like this.

There were so many valuable lessons I learned. I take so many things for granted - everyday. I was so mad at those that went out and mowed their lawn when others were standing in line for hours to buy gas. When I look back on it, it wasn't that they were being rude... they were just trying to take on and do anything "normal" they could think of at the time. Life moves on and you have to move on too. You can mourn with those that lost, but you have to live your life as well.

I want to say how truly lucky and blessed I feel that nothing more happened to us. I wonder if my Heavenly Father knows that that kind of trial is something I could not handle in my life - at all. I then look at those who did lose out on homes and life and think how much they will grow from this experience. Trials are just a way of washing/polishing us; refining us to be better than who we are at the moment. I know this and am thankful for trials in my life... little or big. I consider this one a big one that I have been able to walk away from. It could have been bigger... I just feel so lucky.

Our power came back on the afternoon of Tuesday May 3rd.

I grabbed my children, laughed, shouted, and did a HAPPY dance.
Pretty sure they thought I was crazy. =)

As JC and I lay in bed that night (after some nice hot showers), we went through the past weeks adventure/trial... The thoughts/emotions just came out of how close we really were and what ifs... The thoughts about how insignificant some things really are in our life. We thought about what really matters and what we need to pay more attention to; our children. We spend a lot of our time concentrating on "things" when it should be more about each other. Something we will not take for granted anymore.

It is true. I'll say it again - I feel very blessed. I am walking away not unbroken, but feeling "almost" unbreakable again. That is to say, I feel stronger than I was before.


15 comments:

The Noble Steeds said...

You truely amaze me. I couldn't help but think about how lucky you both are to have each other. JC and his selflessness, you and you're strength. Carin, you are one awesome woman. I am SO glad you guys are okay and that life is moving on for you.

Ally said...

I was thinking about you with all the press!! So happy all is well with your family. Our thoughts and prayers are with everyone and the devastation that hit!

xoxo

Logan said...

I was so glad to see an update from you and know that you guys are all right. I can't even imagine what you have been through, I was in tears just reading your post.

Heather said...

Your story is very touching. I'm so glad that you and your family are safe.

Ryan Reeder said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Ryan Reeder said...

Wow, Carin. I always enjoy reading your blog, but this was really something.

I love you.

Erin said...

Wow Carin! What an amazing post. We are so glad your family is okay. :)

The Traylor's said...

I'm so glad your family and home are okay! I'll never forget the night before Lucas' first birthday we had a tornado touch down across the street from our subdivision. We spent the night in our basement. It was so terrifying. And then of course the floods last year. Tragedy is always a scary thing, but it's so hard when it strikes so close to home.

Kari said...

Thank you for sharing! I knew part of your story from grandma but I appreciate hearing it in your words. I'm so glad your family was safe. Your experience just adds to the many stories/experiences I have heard lately that makes you appreciate the important things in life. LIFE really is too fragile to worry about "things." Thanks again for sharing!

Brittney said...

You poor thing!!! I have always wondered what it would be like in a disaster and from all that happened to you I can't even imagine it! I am so glad you guys are okay!!!

Annie said...

Thank you for sharing this story! I can't even imagine going through that. You were right, it did look like scenes from a movie. I think I started crying about half way through reading this, just thinking about losing everything and what I would honestly do. You are one tough chick, and I am SO glad that you and your adorable family are safe!

Britt said...

Carin, wow, how scary. We're happy that you are all safe! Love, Cousin Andy & Britt Foster

Matt and Jenni said...

Oh my gosh...I literally can't believe it. Your pictures are just...I don't know, I have no words. I am SO glad you guys are ok. You all were the first thing I thought of when I heard about the tornadoes. I can't imagine what that must feel like to see so much devastation so close to your home. Your safe place. My whole family is so so pleased that you are ok, and that you had such great friends to help you out! xoxo

Shennie said...

Thank you for including this. I've needed to know. Every picture I looked at I tried to place. I still can't imagine how horrible it must have been for all of you.

HouseofHubbs said...

When I saw you in Utah I had no idea how traumatic your week had been. I am so sorry. Such haunting photos, I can only imagine what that must have been like in person. So grateful for the meat locker and that your home was spared. XO