Notes from Tuscaloosa, May 10

I did not have internet access while in Tuscaloosa, so I accumulated some thoughts while I was there and will post them here over the next few days to share with you. ~JD

Front of Central Church of Christ

 

Tuesday, May 10
Driving in to Tuscaloosa last night there was little sign that nature has been up to anything amiss. I saw a few  signs that had been blown over; a felled tree here and there. Everything looked normal to me.

This morning as I made my way to my destination I still couldn’t see much damage. I made a left turn onto Hargrove street and saw a tree that had fallen through a house. Isolated damage, but it was substantial. Once I topped the hill I had a panorama of the destruction. The tornado had a path. It didn’t take a city, it took a slice out of the city and here is where it came through. The area in front of me really looked like an bomb had exploded.

I drove over to the Central Church of Christ. (Believe me, the irony is not lost on me here. I was serving another Central Church of Christ when Katrina hit the Coast.) At least the lot that the church building used to be on. All that’s there now is a twisted mass of iron and debris. The newly remodeled building had won an award for beautification of the city … but not in it’s present state.

Inside the Central Church of Christ Building

I wish I could express vividly enough the familiarity of this scene. Trailers, RVs, tents, stacks of water bottles, the sound of a refrigerated truck rumbling, people stopping by for supplies of whatever kind they could find – really I was almost transported back to the Fall of 2005 on the Mississippi Gulf Coast. Around the corner came Karl Davis, someone I first met in Pascagoula when he came to help us there. Here he is again helping out at another disaster. Now I live in the same city as Karl.

Karl helped me deliver some funds we collected to the University Church and I met a few of the relief people there. (You can check their website for updated lists of things needed in their relief efforts.)  As we drove through town the path of the massive  tornado was clear to see. There are very few structures that are simply damaged. It is mostly all or … nothing.

There are relief sites all over town, even in areas where there is no damage. Almost all of them are Christians. I saw no atheists with water bottles, no cynics with wry expressions offering to feed families. Christians don’t get everything right, but they do this very well. Almost every church parking lot has something to offer the stunned people of this city. The denominational walls are missing (some literally!) and sharing is not a matter of territorial faith. A Church of God from Mississippi brought their donations to the Central relief site. All the organizations are here … FEMA, Red Cross, Salvation Army, and others I didn’t recognize.

Yes, I went back in time for a while today. It is impossible to not see all of this through the lens of Katrina. Only this time there was no dreadful feeling of watching my family go through such loss. It’s someone else’s family now. And I can’t do much, but I can do something. So I found myself in Tuscaloosa after the worst natural disaster to happen in Alabama.

Thanks for reading,

John

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