Guest Post Wednesday: As Soon as the Wind Died Down

This week’s guest post is by my friend Patti, who is one of the most creative people I know. She’s a thinker, a reader, a writer, and an incredible maker of crafty things. I am always impressed. Here she recollects an experience from her childhood in small-town Kentucky, and considering that the tornado siren is wailing as I post this, it’s certainly an appropriate thought for today!

Ask any “long-timers” in my small town what they were doing the afternoon of April 3, 1974, and the answer will be the same.

At 5:40 in the evening, a band of F5 tornadoes moved through our county with 260 mile per hour winds and numerous touch downs. It was the second worst storm of the century. The tornadoes left a bizarre path. They would take out a grove of trees while leaving a patch of tulips standing tall. They left one community devastated and the next battered but standing. Our little village escaped the worst while our neighbors down the road lost nearly everything. The elementary school, the Baptist Church, the majority of homes–gone.

As soon as the wind died down, everyone mobilized. Neighbors knocked on doors to check on one another. Loose livestock was rounded up. Debris was moved from the road by hand to make way for emergency vehicles. Those who had electricity fed and sheltered those without. We emptied our closets and our pantries. What were a few shoes, blankets, and peach preserves among neighbors? We shared our elementary school–desks, books, teachers. We shared our church–organ, pulpit and pew. Folks gave what was needed without being asked. It was not a burden to give and it was not a burden to receive.

I was a child at the time, and what affected me most was not the devastation but the recovery. Not the looking back but the looking ahead. Not the fear but the hope. The buildings, barns, and fences had been ripped apart but one thing remained intact: Community. Just about the most pure and blessed example I have ever seen. I am proud to call this place home.

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5 comments on “Guest Post Wednesday: As Soon as the Wind Died Down

  1. Elaine says:

    We too experienced a string of killer tornadoes, and found the same thing, especially among the farming community. Where a barn was destroyed, neighbors rounded up the animals they could find and took them home to milk until arrangements could be made. No one complained – they just did it. In fact, our animal trucker lost his hauling truck, and a lot more, and the farmers collected money and bought him a new one. After all, we needed him to be in business!

  2. Stephen says:

    I like the statement “Not the looking back but the looking ahead”. So often we get the “woe is me” attitude, sulking and whining about what has happened. But with a community to stand with you, to help you grow and move forward we are able to rebuild and get back on our feet.

    • Elaine Wise says:

      I had my juniors do an Amazing Race PCS, where they had to complete all kinds of physical as well as mental tasks. As we were debriefing yesterday, one of the comments which came up most often was how having a teammate was so great. They said it kept them less stressed, often was weak/strong balanced, and comments like that. As Stephen said, “a community to stand with you…”

  3. A timely story! You reminded me of the summer of 2006 when our little village was evacuated because of flood. so many neighbors and businesses lost so much but the sense of community in the clean up is a cherished memory. I’m so glad my kids got to see that, too; it helps put life into perspective. Thanks for sharing!

  4. elizabeth says:

    Hey, these are some great conversations! I guess I should be a little more on the ball with responding to comments.

    When I posted this on Wednesday morning, I of course had no idea the tragedy that the southeast was to experience on Wednesday evening. Patti’s essay, and these comments, are even more timely than we could have imagined, aren’t they? In times of tragedy, I think it is only in community that the pieces can be picked up and glued back together. Is community the glue? Maybe so. Not that the cracks won’t remain visible… and our vessel might end up with some gaping holes… but, as Tamara said, these moments help all of us, even those who haven’t experienced the tragedy first-hand, “put life into perspective.”

    Keep the conversation going!

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