Shock. Fear. Denial.
These are all emotions I experienced after I found out a tornado had ripped through my hometown while I was at work.
Hope. Community. Love.
These were emotions that we in Bridgeton began to feel as the shock began to wear off. Even as I was trying relentlessly to get home from work, I saw neighbors helping each other out – moving trees out of the way, checking on each other, helping each other out. In fact, in order for me to get home, (after two hours of driving around through snarled traffic and power lines blocking roads and police closing neighborhoods off) some neighbors had to move a giant tree out of the road so I could get my car through.
It was absolutely terrifying. I had no idea what I was coming home to, but nothing could’ve prepared me for what I saw when I entered my neighborhood. Pieces of houses… everywhere. Trees, destruction… as far as the eye could see. The power was out, so it was extremely dark, except for a few headlights of those poor souls in the same situation as me trying to get home, and the flashlights of neighbors. I can remember driving by places where there used to be homes, and seeing utter destruction. All I wanted was to get home to my family (who thank God were okay. And I knew both my family and my home was untouched by the grace of God, but that still didn’t stop the sights around me from cutting straight to my core).
When I finally reached my house, I gave my parents the longest hug they have probably ever received from me, and I began to just take in my surroundings. My neighbors were all out, roaming about, seeing if anyone needed help. That’s something great about my neighborhood, my community. If someone needs help, they’re there. If there’s a siren, or a firetruck going by, everyone comes out to see if they can do anything.
I knew there was a lot of damage, and I had driven by alot of it, but I was still surprised when the sun came up the next day and we could really survey all of the carnage. It was surreal. Absolutely unbelievable.
But by the grace of God, no one was killed. The tornado blew threw the heart of Lambert International Airport. It went through neighborhoods. Demolished businesses. Not one person was killed. Amazing.
And as the days went by, we all pitched in to help each other out. Service International, a local volunteer group, set up their home base in the parking lot of a church. They had over 5,000 volunteers helping clean up damage, including my friends and family. Seeing everyone come together to help each other out was awesome. It brought a sense of camaraderie, and also of hope. It gave me newfound faith in the people of my hometown. We were damaged, but we would survive. We would conquer.
And this has been my inspiration for this post. I know there has been so much rebuilding going on and I just wanted to showcase some of it: from my perspective. The photos from the day after the tornado were taken by my cell phone, and the after photos were taken using my digital SLR. The juxtaposition of the destruction and the rebuilding after is phenomenal, and incredibly inspiring. This was a town that had an F-4 tornado tear through the heart of it, but we didn’t give up. We survived. We rose from the ashes.
Take a look through the gallery of photos below. The first picture displayed is of the destruction after the tornado, the second is how we are rebuilding or have already completed rebuilding one year later.
I believe these pictures, these snapshots of hope, will leave you just as speechless as they left me.
And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord. [not even tornadoes!]
- Romans 8:38-39