The night of the tornado, our new son-in-law drove us to his parents home. They had heard what had happened and immediately insisted that Joel bring us there to stay until we could figure out our next steps. We had lost all of our cars, clothes and most of our other possessions. It was a strange feeling to lay our heads down that night knowing we had few worldly possessions intact to wake up to in the morning. After twenty-three years of marriage and building our life together, we were truly starting over. Bob and I laid in bed holding one another crying, thanking God for sparing our lives and asking Him to teach us to trust Him for the rest of what was to come.
In the morning, we woke up early but couldn’t eat breakfast. All Bob and I wanted to do was get home. We asked our friends to please drive us back out to the farm and drop us off so we could get started on putting things back in order. Even though everyone at the house that morning tried to talk us into taking the day off to rest, we insisted we just needed to get home and start cleaning up. Against everyone’s better judgment, we were driven the eight miles out County Line and dropped off.
Bob and I stood in front of the house as the car drove away, leaving us alone to face the devastation of the previous night. The house was little more than a shell and our belongings were strewn for miles. The chicken coop, well-house, workshop and most of our beautiful trees were gone. Simply and completely gone. Our wonderful, hundred year old barn was no more. Pieces of it were embedded in our cars and house but most of it had vanished. Days later, the cupola would be found mangled in a pasture five miles away. There were even divots on the ground where the tornado had actually touched down.
We never saw any of our poor chickens again. One of our horses was found two miles away, badly cut and bruised but alive. Our other old mare was in shock among the debri. The goats were battered, one losing a leg later on from her injuries. The rest of the animals wandered around dazed, as if in a slow-motion dream.
After walking the property inside and out, Bob went to the front of the house, sat on the porch and began to cry. I walked away to where the barn had once stood and stared at the pile of rubble before me. The feeling of exhaustion hit me and I slowly laid down in the red dirt, crying. I didn’t know if I would ever be able to get back up. I’m not sure how long we remained at our separate spots, each fearful and yet not wanting to admit it to the other. It seemed like hours and yet was probably merely minutes.
Eventually, we both became aware of a car pulling into our gravel driveway. As the two of us stood and headed towards the unknown visitor, another car pulled into our drive. Then another and another and another until there were more cars than we could count. They filled our driveway and lined our road for about a half a mile. People we knew well, some we slightly recognized from our small town and some we had never seen before were leaving their cars and walking up the road to our property. Each person carried something: food, water, tools, generators. You name it, someone had brought it.
With few words, people began hauling our animals to their farms. Chainsaws began cutting away the twisted mess that lay before us. Farmers with tractors and trailers cleared away metal and pushed debri into huge burn piles. The entire high school senior class showed up with the principal, each person carrying several empty boxes, hoping to collect as many of our belongings as possible. A man we had never met before had offered free storage for whatever they could gather. Bob and I were completely useless. We stood and wept for the most part.
You can’t keep a secret in a small town. Our little Oklahoma community had heard of our sorrow that morning and had done what Oklahomans always do. They reached out to their neighbor, carried some of the burden, refused any thanks and quietly went on their way. These acts of kindness would continue for much longer than we could have ever imagined.
To Be Continued….