One year ago today, I remember that the weather was absolutely perfect the entire afternoon.
I remember having that 'this day is too good to be true' feeling. Because the winter had been so harsh and the spring had been so windy and rainy, and the summer was looking oh-so-promising.
I remember noticing that the clouds looked like cotton candy that had been molded by bubble wrap, and I thought to myself, 'those are the sort of clouds that make VERY bad storms.'
I remember the first tornado sirens, I heard them in Webb City, just as the first few raindrops were falling. I remember that I was not afraid.
I remember the listening to the radio, it was the only real warning, the only voice of reason. The first sign of proof that life-as-we-knew-it was over.
I remember the first few houses and buildings and trees that were damaged. I thought, 'maybe it wasn't that bad.'
I remember the traffic, the roads being blocked in every direction.
I remember not being able to text or call, but the phone calls I did get were scared relatives from far away who were watching the weather channel. They seemed to know more than me, even though I was right in the middle of it.
I remember seeing St. John's for the first time. A car in front of us was wrapped up in a downed power line, and we were trying to get around them, trying to get home.
I remember the journey home took SO long.
I remember running.
I remember realizing that the damage went from 'not so bad' about a block from my house to 'armageddon' just a few blocks from that.
I remember stopping at the intersection of 26th and Joplin Street. I stopped to catch my breath....the scene around me was so horrifying, it couldn't possibly be real. Every familiar thing around me was unrecognizable....the elementary school, the hospital, the taco bell, every house in my radius was flattened, splintered, gone. People were wandering around, confused, bloody. Some were trying to help. Smoke from a house fire rose in the distance, sirens blared, the sky threatened rain at any moment. It is the scene I go back to in my memories of that night. It is the instant replay, that I return to when I remember the tornado.
I remember thinking 'my mom is dead'. There is no way she could have survived. Not this. There is no way.
I remember climbing over apartments, power lines, debris was everywhere.
I remember my mom, sitting on the curb, soaking wet, a wound on her foot with flesh gaping out.
I remember thinking, we cannot stay out here until after dark, we are so far from a car, I have to get us out of here. So I ran off to find a wheel chair.
I remember standing beside the flattened nursing home as they carried patients out on stretchers and laid them on the parking lot, on open mattresses. I remember trying to stand in front of mom so that she couldn't see the dead, she had seen enough.
I remember the smells. The smell of gas leaking. The smell of splintered wood, the smell of attic musk, mixed with fresh rain.
I remember carrying a fat wiener dog home. I remember that I just wanted to watch what everyone else was watching. I wanted to know what had happened through the eyes of a reporter or newscaster, not through my own eyes.
I remember what happened on May 22nd, 2011 at 5:41pm. It changed me forever. In the weeks that followed, I was forced to
drive through the path of the storm every single day in order to get to
work or around town. It was unavoidable. I am not sure that my
co-workers or family members really understand what that is like.....the
destruction of familiarity.....A daily reminder, a constant connection
to the event.
As much as I do not want to deal with what happened, I just want to forget about it, I can't. It is inside of me, part of me, forever.
To read more of my documentation, click here:
Before and After Photos
Ode to the iPhone
Destruction in the Heartland