Reporter's Note: The president is extending condolences and support to all the towns hit by that string of tornadoes in the South. So am I.
Dear Mr. President,
Happy Saturday! You’ve had quite a busy week, and I must say that I did, too. It is nice to wake up to a relatively quiet day and know that I have a little recovery time before firing up the old grindstone again.
That said, I am mindful of how many people in the path of those awful storms woke up to just another day of hard work. That is one of the great challenges of catastrophes; there is just no break. You can’t call in sick, or take a vacation from digging out of rubble. You can’t tell your heart to quit aching. So my thoughts are certainly with them.
My brother, niece and nephew were up in Tuscaloosa helping with some cleanup this week. Some other family members are too, if I heard right. Not sure where they are now; I think back home in south Alabama. My nephew graduated from the University of Alabama, and my niece is still attending (as I told you, she was hunkered down in a house right next to the main path of destruction) so the whole thing has been rather personal for them.
And come to think of it, that’s another thing that makes such calamities hard to bear. Even though such storms are mindless, know no address, and run simply because they can, what they take from people is utterly wrapped in emotions, thoughts, and memories.
I’ve been to many, many tornadoes and what usually strikes me most once we grasp the devastating loss of life, is the brutal way in which they lay people’s lives bare. Prized photographs of children and grandparents curl up in mud puddles. Favorite sweaters are shredded across splintered beams. A book someone was reading last night, swells up and bursts with rain on top of a mattress flung from a half mile away. A man’s beloved car rests upside down in his neighbor’s yard. A woman’s most comfortable chair still sits on the rug she bought on vacation in Mexico, but the floor beneath it now resides in a farm field with no walls, no ceiling, no TV, no phone.
Of course people lose real treasures: jewelry, family heirlooms, keepsakes of all sorts. And I suppose it is wise for folks to try to think of much of the rest of the wreckage as just stuff. But that stuff is the building material we all use to make our lives. We count on spoons in the kitchen, and socks in the drawer, and the computer on the desk, and when we lose it this way, we lose part of our stability, our security, and our sense that we have a safe place in a tough world.
So, like I said, while my friends down South labor over this weekend, I will be thinking of them and praying for them - hoping that amid the sea of ruin they can salvage some meaningful parts of their lives from a few days ago, and begin building anew a safe harbor in the storm’s wake.
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