All of us have special days in our lives that we keep with us always, some good some bad but they’re all significant. So it will be with me for Monday January 23, 2012 at 3:50 AM. Something woke me up at 3:30 AM and a few minutes later I heard long rolling thunder, it was the storms coming out of Little Rock that I had seen on radar before going to bed. Before I could contemplate going back to sleep the sirens went off. I woke my wife up and we went for the TV and she called her mother, who lives across the street, to alert her that something was going on. We tuned in to Fox 6 and were told that radar indicated a tornado moving from Fultondale towards Center Point and we needed to take cover so we grabbed a flashlight and the dog and headed for the basement as my wife called her mother and sent her downstairs also. We had only been in the basement for a few minutes, still expecting a miss , when the lights went out. Within seconds the unmistakable roar of a tornado was upon us followed quickly by the crash of a tree coming through our roof, then only silence and darkness. We scrambled upstairs to survey the damage and my wife began grabbing buckets and pots to try to contain the flood of water into the bedroom. I ran to check on my mother-in-law and our neighbors and found myself fighting my way through downed trees. It’s funny but it all happened so fast there wasn’t any time to be afraid. So began that Monday for me, my wife and so very many of our neighbors. When daybreak finally arrived and I saw the extent of damage to my house, my feelings were hurt, still thankful to be alive but hurt just the same. Those hurt feelings went away when I saw the carnage at 23 Ave NW and 3rd Street. I had damage but a block away they had utter destruction, I could not help but to cry at such a sight.
The rest of the week was spend clearing the debris to the never ending drone of chain saws. That Friday evening, as I stood in the yard surveying the endless piles of tree trunks and limbs, the Mayor pulled up and told me that Center Point would get no support from FEMA. The home owners would have to pay for debris removal so I spent $500 and had much of mine hauled off but something wasn’t sitting well with me. There was no way my neighbors could pay to have the thousands of truck loads of trees hauled off, we needed help just as others had received in April. That Saturday I typed a memo to my neighbors telling of my conversation with the Mayor and listing the phone numbers for the Governor, our Congresswoman and both Senators. I took them door to door and ask them to call on Monday which apparently many did. The aid at Senator Sessions office was very helpful and explained the whole FEMA process and called me back three times with updates as the request for aid progressed from the Governor and the Alabama delegation to the President and finally, on Wednesday, its approval. I have no animosity toward Mayor Henderson, his home was wrecked in the storm too and I guess he was overwhelmed with the situation.
I normally get much of my news off the Internet but although I got power back on the evening of the 25th, it was another week and a half before AT&T got my phones and Internet back up. In the intervening days I watched local stations for local news and Fox for national news. Within just a few days the words of an old song began to creep into my head and in short order I was singing it all the time. It was Don Henley’s “Dirty Laundry” and it goes:
“See the bubble headed bleach blond comes on at five”
“She can tell you about the plane crash with a gleam in her eye”
“It’s interesting when people die, give me dirty laundry”
“We can do the innuendo we can dance and sing”
“But when it’s said and done we haven’t told you a thing”
“We all know that crap is king, give us dirty laundry”
Boy oh boy did Henley ever hit the nail on the head with that one. I now understand the meaning of junk news, shallow reporting and just repeating what they’re told. What’s wrong with these people, haven’t they ever heard of asking a question, it’s called “investigative reporting”. I think we’re in big trouble folks, if we have to depend on TV news to get the truth on the issues!
Reflecting on the whole experience and what I’ve learned is interesting, such as:
I’ve learned a lot about surviving a disaster and what we need to be prepared.
That in times of need, neighbors and community will pull together and look out for each other.
That churches from all over will pour in with help for whatever you need, from cutting trees to food and clothing and shelter.
That if you don’t think Government is doing what is right, come together and call them, it works.
That Jefferson was right about the media, there’s just not much there. Get your own information or become one of the lost souls.
That Alabama power can work miracles but that the right hand at AT&T doesn’t know what the left is doing.
And lastly, that God Almighty has been at our sides through this one for sure!