It is hard to know where to begin.
Our town carries the scars of a battlefield.
Our church has been converted to a distribution center – bottles of water, toilet paper, diapers and clothing, people streaming in – feeling helpless – helping.
I find myself glued to the T.V., internet, radio – as though having more information will make me better prepared – for what, I don’t know.
For the first two days I told myself that I couldn’t photograph this. I’m not a photojournalist. I don’t want to intrude on people’s pain. Yesterday, however, I had a change of heart. I realized that although I am not an obvious choice to be of help – a nurse, a fireman, a trained relief worker – I too have a gift. I have something to offer through my photography. This is a story I am going to share.
So far, all of our friends and clients are safe and accounted for. There are many stories of “if the wind hadn’t shifted” or “if we hadn’t gone to church” or “if we had gone to Walmart last instead of first”, but in a sea of tragedy so many have found comfort in minor miracles.
For those of you not in this community, allow me to share some stories. It’s easy for the destruction to seem far too big. It’s easy to lose perspective. Here are some people who will help you keep it.
This is little Connor. He and his family lost their home in the tornado. They were visiting relatives out of town. When they examined what was left of the house, they discovered that the roof of the inner room they would have taken shelter in had been completely been blown away. The Sweeny family also lost their home, but all are safe.Baby Hadley was born on Friday. Jake and Lindsey lost their home on Sunday.You’ve seen these sweet boys on my blog for years. The Ramseys house was also completely destroyed.
Several weeks ago we had the pleasure of photographing all the dancers from Miss Karen’s Dance Studio in preparation for their big recital. The recital, a beautiful tribute held Saturday night, was in memory of Miss Karen, who died of cancer in January. Her daughter has taken over the studio with such care. So inspiring. The studio was destroyed by the tornado. And then there are our dear friends, Joe and Michelle, who just three weeks ago got married. Today their home is gone. As are the wedding gifts, the wedding dress – the guest book that held the wishes of over 300 friends and family. What overcomes me again and again is the way, in the wake of such disaster, people can so easily focus on what is important. Over and over again I hear people say in one way or another “We’re safe. Everything else is just stuff.” Or as a friend shared when he asked someone what they lost in the tornado, they replied “I lost my selfishness”.
Personally, I feel guilty. Guilty that my community is hurting so much, yet I don’t have a scratch on me. I have electricity. I have clean water to drink. I can call my husband on his cell phone, knowing where he is and knowing that he will answer. And I can tuck my children into their own warm bed and smell their hair and kiss their cheeks and know that tomorrow when I wake up I can do it all again. For so many, this is just a memory. I struggled in taking these pictures. The destruction is so endless, and my lens is so small. It is absolutely inadequate to capture the destruction. The experience of this place is surreal. There are just no words. I took a video of this area – not sure how to post it here but will have David put it on our facebook page – of a 360 degree turn. It is every direction. To the horizon.I could take a thousand pictures and not scratch the surface of this devastation. I had passed on to me the same letter many of you may have already read from the preacher in Tuscaloosa to Joplin. You can read it in its entirety here. He has a power in his words that I don’t have in mine, so wanted to share this quote:
“One month from today, you will not be healed, but healing.
The scrap will be piled like bunkers alongside the roads, and eventually, even the choir of sirens will dissipate. One day soon, cars will once again outnumber ambulances, and in a few weeks time, you’ll see a child throw a Frisbee and for a moment, forget that anything more treacherous ever collected in the wind.”
Thank you for the prayers you have said for our community. Please don’t stop. We’re not done using them yet.
If you wish to contribute to the healing efforts of the victims, our church has set up a fund that will go 100% directly to those who need it. You can donate at www.mthope.waytogive.net.
If any of the stories of our clients/friends have touched you and you would like to make donations directly to them, feel free to contact me through our website or facebook page and I will give you information on how you can give to them directly.