Alabama 811 | Know What's Below.

A Personal Note…

| May 1, 2011 @ 8:20 am | 118 Replies

I thought this piece written by my wife last night was worth posting here. It is with her permission….

We just drove, sun in our faces, until we reached it; the twisted limbs and scattered pieces announcing what was ahead of us. This was the edge of the storm, James told us. We were going in from the side or back of it. I don’t know what was drawing me so desperately to be there, (aside from praying to God with all that is in me that there would be someone I could help, some way, other than just water or food. I think I just wanted to talk and see, and hold a hand. I don’t know.) I don’t know this any more than I know what drives me to write all of this down. If you are reading it, I have chosen to share it. But for now, it is for my own eyes. I don’t understand what I saw today. Black words on white paper may help me to see it more clearly. There has been enough gray.

Our 4-Runner is waved through into the area only because James is behind the wheel. Ryan, aged 13, in the back seat. He had been “briefed” as James had put it–as to what he may see or encounter. I do not know what he told him, and secretly hoped that he did not tell him the things which he shared with me. Things I will not write down, nor will I forget. But things that will forever break my heart and remain with me although I only got to see them through my husband’s eyes. I am grateful that he told me these things, and grateful that for the first time he “broke down” as I will forever refer to it that morning at the breakfast table, when the tears finally came. I have not seen my husband cry in a very long time. Go ahead, I thought. Get it out. But they wanted him on the radio upstairs, and he was gone. You would not have known he was hurting to hear him talk moments later. This is my James.

We had come from baseball practice. “Leave your cleats on.” James had instructed Ryan. “Look down. Always look down when you walk.” Driving is not easy, but as we bump and shake, and gasp at the war zone we are literally driving into, James is amazed at the transformation since he saw it last. I tried to imagine what could be worse. Destruction and ruin as if the very gates of Hell had opened onto the earth and tossed it; spewing death and brokenness everywhere. This thought hung in the air like the odor; stronger at times than others, but ever present. I described it on the way home as the saddest smell in the world; a combination of sickness and sweetness, foul and musty. If we did not know what it was, we might believe that it was the air itself mourning the horror of it all. As if the air, or the sky, which was almost obscene in it’s clear blueness, couldn’t remember it had days ago carried on its breeze the scent of blooming jasmine or freshly mowed grass.

At first, we found ourselves respectfully tiptoeing through the debris. People were there, and I so desperately wanted to reach out to them. But as we got closer to them, seeing them picking through what was left of their home… their lives—hearing them speak to each other in the semi hushed tones your neighbors might use while working in their yard, it became an unspoken necessity to respect the privacy of their home. We did not approach these people. Some we greeted, others greeted us. A few wanted to talk. I remember at one point selfishly wanting to press on. I needed to go somewhere, anywhere, that there may be some help to offer. I am so very impatient. I don’t know why God has not given up on me, but He hasn’t. “This is healing. Stop, and just listen.” He told me. And so we did.

I remember once a few years ago after pulling weeds in my yard for days that I would “see” their spiky green bodies every time I closed my eyes. I believe that some of the things I saw today will forever be burned behind my eyelids. Homes, most marked in white spray paint with an X or an O (like hurricane Katrina) lay open and littered beyond description. Not knowing whether X meant they had found persons living or dead was frankly blissful ignorance. There was no where to start, no where to look, to even begin to take it all in. The horribly twisted and crushed homes and cars. Dishes and chairs and televisions scattered as far as you could dare to look. The books and sinks, toilets and clothing, pictures and papers and purses and luggage. The doll or stuffed animal or hula hoop lying in a pile of broken glass and insulation…what was left of a crib and a bouncy seat that brought tears to our eyes and launched a trio of prayers from our hearts, silently praying the baby was safe in the arms of his mother. There were family pictures and some papers, even a life insurance policy there on the ground as if placed there by some B movie in Hollywood. Strewn on the ground, and all of us walking over it, and finding ourselves, uninvited, in what used to be someone else’s neighborhood.

I took only one picture the entire day, and that was of a magnolia which I found blooming in the midst of a pile of debris. James took a few I believe, mostly of the inside of homes where the “interior walls” and “closets” he continually preaches about, were, indeed left standing. I remember thinking that I hoped someone would get evidence of this. Among twisted metal and bricks literally reduced to dust and ashes, clothes were hung, neatly and on racks, as though waiting for the homeowner to return and put them on. I remember seeing a spring in his step I had not seen in recent hours as he discovered these treasures of hope. Oh, how we hoped that those living there were in one of those “safe” places. Please, Lord, please. Speak to our hearts and reassure us that yes, they were safe in these little places you provided for them. Thank you, thank you, Lord, that you are so much bigger than all of this.

Maybe tomorrow I will have something new and healing to write…something I will “see” behind my eyelids that God wants me to see and remember. I am beyond joyful at the work He will allow us to do as we minister to all those who are hurting. “Do you love me? Tend my sheep…” He is speaking so tenderly and softly, and yet so loudly in all of this. To Him be the glory. “I have told you these things so that you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” John 16:33


Category: Hodgepodge

About the Author ()

James Spann is one of the most recognized and trusted television meteorologists in the industry. He holds the AMS CCM designation and television seals from the AMS and NWA. He is a past winner of the Broadcast Meteorologist of the Year from both professional organizations.

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