*( Note from Susan: This morning my husband and I were relieved to find this email from our friend, Buddy Hanson who lives with his wife in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. Dan had tried unsuccessfully to contact him multiple times after the devastating tornado that hit there, though we eventually heard through a mutual friend that he and his wife were alright. This letter not only gives a breathtaking first hand account of the recent tornado tragedy, but as he writes, Buddy’s overcoming attitude in the midst of adversity is both convicting and inspiring. We were so grateful to read this, as I know you will be.)
One month after the massive F-4 Tornado swept through Tuscaloosa my landline was reconnected and I am once again able to communicate to the outside world. This is no knock of AT&T, because the wooden poles were demolished and the steel poles were bent like pretzels with the various wires and boxes intertwined with trees, plus the sub station was blown away and had to be rebuilt. The guys from Texas who were working in our neighborhood said they worked Katrina and this was worse than that. Anyway, by God’s grace Wanda and I– and our home, though receiving major damage– survived. Thank you for your prayers and concerns. I noticed that among the 728 email messages that I am sorting through, several of you sent messages, and Wanda and I can say that your prayers have made and are making a positive difference in our situation.
Since most of you reading this live out of state, I’ll provide a glimpse of what happened. All weather forecasters were predicting that we had a nine out of ten chance of having at least one major tornado touch down, so Wanda and I and her sister Peggy went to the hospital to ride-out the storm. As it turned out, the 1/2-mile wide tornado with 200 mph winds stayed on the ground for eight miles through heavily populated areas, demolishing homes, student apartments and businesses.
We watched the storm approach on TV. It was a very unsettling sight as it was coming directly for the hospital, until turning just enough to only blowout patient windows (the patients had already been moved into the halls). When the emergency power came on, we had no TV, and at that point y’all knew more than we did how bad things were. Wanda and I slept in the SUV in the hospital parking deck.
The next morning I walked down University Blvd. to our home, which is about a mile from the hospital, praying all the while that we still had a home. About halfway, I passed through a small area that used to be Alberta City. The shops, churches, and homes had been reduced to piles of sticks and bricks. I passed people pulling suit cases on wheels, pushing grocery carts filled with individual items and carrying hanging bags of what I suppose was all they had left. Where they were going, I could not imagine.
Behind me were approximately 50 university students who, I suppose, were going to help rescue survivors trapped in the debris. The University of Alabama is only about a half mile from the hospital. Then I passed a couple of neighbors. The wife was going to get her chemo treatment and she said, “Have you seen your home?” I responded, “Do I have one?” She said, “Yes, most all of your trees [large oak and pine] are down but only two fell on your home.” To that I said, “Praise the Lord that I still have a home for them to fall on!”
As it turned out, the large tree damaged the den, but God protected my office (and 15 unpublished manuscripts) and my library. The rest of the house was in pristine condition, aside from some minor roof damage to a bedroom, bathroom, and my office, which was caused by branches from the tree.
The outpouring of volunteers was most heart-warming. Because we are only about two miles from the campus, there was a steady stream of students with chain saws, tarps for roofs, plus cold drinks and hot meals. (During the first two weeks the only way to get to and from our neighborhood was to walk). Local businesses also sent employees with tractors and cranes to clear away the many large trees that used to dot our neighborhood, and to remove trees from rooftops.
The insurance adjuster still hasn’t crunched his numbers for our damage estimate, so we don’t know how we’re going to come out with the reconstruction, but at least we have a contractor we know and trust, so that’s a plus. In addition to the den, carport, driveway and patio that were damaged, we will have to landscape our front and backyards because of all of the trees we lost and the damage to our yard caused by the heavy equipment that was voluntarily (praise God) provided to move the logs to the street to be picked up by FEMA. But the process has begun.
I’m coming to you “live from our kitchen,” and our attitude is the same as our neighbors’, who regardless of their damages are not complaining, because we all know that we could have been one of the 2,300 homes that were completely destroyed. Back in the day when I was coaching baseball at Alabama, I used to tell the players, “Anyone can catch a good hop. It’s the players that handle the bad hops that will be successful.” And, from the attitude of fellow Tuscaloosans, I have confidence that we’re handling the “bad hop” that life has given us in such a way that T-Town won’t be down for very long.
Hope you enjoy this week’s TGIM, and have a great week of taking ground for Christ’s Kingdom!
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