Sunday tornadoes bring back devastating memories

All I can think about this week is how horrible I feel for the victims of the tornadoes in central Arkansas. Like many of you out there, I watched the weather coverage Sunday night—mainly because I wanted to make sure we weren’t in the direct path of the storm—and I saw how Mayflower and Vilonia were damaged due to the storms.

While I was relieved the storm was way to our north, my heart broke for those affected by them. My relief became someone else’s burden.

We sit at home and track the storms. I’m guilty of thinking how cool it is that meteorologists can track storms so accurately. I have to admit it’s pretty awesome to see the storm on radar. It’s nothing like it used to be. We can actually see the rotation on the screen now. Technology has brought us long way, but what it hasn’t done is lessen the impact of the storm for those affected.

For some, loved ones were lost, and they are never coming back. In the blink of an eye, they are gone; taken away by an act of nature.

For others, sunrise brought the opportunity to sift through the rubble to find what’s left of their belongings. The lucky ones are the ones with the rubble to sift through. The news reported some homes were “simply gone.” For those, there is no rubble. Everything is just gone.

This catastrophic event in our state happened to coincide with the third anniversary of the last Vilonia tornado and Alabama tornadoes. Most consider my family victims of the storm but we are not victims. We are survivors. There is a big difference.

Over the last three years, I often think about that day and the days that followed. In less than a minute, lives were changed. In those moments when you have absolutely nothing, I believe true character is seen. You will either lay down and throw a pity party or fight to get back to what you consider a normal life. I am proud to say we got our life back.

In the three years that have passed, healing has occurred. The towns are beginning to rebuild, and families are trying to move past the devastation they experienced.

I personally knew four people who died on April 27, 2011. Each April I can’t help think about them. Every year since 2011, I’ve grieved for these individuals and their families, but this year, I have hope that the pain of their loss is beginning to lessen for them.

My friend Heather lost both her parents that day. She adopted a baby boy named Noah last year. She misses her mom and dad, but she’s at peace with the loss. Patricia and Don were wonderful people. Patricia sang gospel music. She released several CDs during her career and won several awards as an independent artist. I still can’t listen to her music without crying. One day, I hope that I can because she had such a beautiful voice.

Jimmy’s cousin, Alicia, lost her mother that day. It took rescue workers days to find her after the storm. I will never forget when we heard the news. Jimmy was so upset because people were trying to help us sift through the debris and they were still searching for his cousin’s mother. Alicia took the news really hard. She is finally trying to push past how she lost her mother, and is moving toward trying to remember she’s in Heaven.

My friend Vicky was a paramedic. She is the fourth person I knew who died that day. She was a rock. If I was sick or hurt, I wanted her taking care of me. She was with her niece that day. I don’t know all the specifics. Just that they were together when the storm hit, and I have no doubt Vicky comforted the little girl until the end. That’s the way she was. She brought comfort to those who needed it even when she knew the situation was dire. 

Even after three years, these and the 30 other lives lost in Phil Campbell and Hackleburg are still missed. The communities have tried to rebuild. It’s really hard when you’ve lost so much that can’t be replaced.

I have begun to find comfort in knowing that God was there with me in those moments when I thought I might surely die. The Lord brought me peace, strength and courage during the storm. He held my hand in the days, weeks, and months afterwards so I know He was with my friends on that day as well.

We all want to help the victims and survivors of the Central Arkansas tornadoes. We can pour money into various organizations. We can go and help them rebuild, but the best thing anyone  did for me during my time of need was say a prayer for my family.

Melissa Cason is the staff writer for the Advance Monticellonian. She can be contacted at 367-5325.

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