It was a regular Sunday… Patrick and I got up and went to Sunday school and church, had lunch at Olive Garden, and then we came home. I was ready for my Sunday afternoon nap, and Patrick was ready to watch TV. Little did we know what the afternoon and evening would hold. We knew there was potential for bad weather, but I guess you are always hoping it misses you. A little after 3, we found ourselves in the bathroom as we were under a tornado warning. It didn’t last long, and we thought we would be okay. At around 4:40 we got a text from my dad that said, “Keep an eye on the tornado around Columbia right now. Headed in our general direction.” Not exactly the words you want to see in a text message. We turn on WDAM to watch their coverage and head back to our hall bathroom. Nothing is scarier than seeing the tornado captured on the Petro camera with the reporters telling you to take cover it’s headed down 98. I admit I did have flashbacks from Katrina. Although the anticipation for Katrina was much worse and lasted a lot longer, the same feelings began to run over me. Earlier I had run to our bedroom to get our tennis shoes in case we needed to get out after it passed. I’ll never forget my dad telling my sister and me to get our shoes on during Katrina. And then I remember telling Patrick to just pray…..
|F4 that passed through Hattiesburg|
At about 5:20 it had passed us, and we soon realized that our house and neighborhood has been spared. The tornado had passed by, but far enough away from where we were. Little did we know how close it came to my parent’s and grandparent’s house. The tornado probably missed them by a block or so. Wow… It sill brings tears to my eyes and gives me chills to think how different the outcome could have been. When we got word that my parents and grandparents were okay we were relieved, although I’m not sure we understood at that point how destructive the tornado was. After hearing stories and seeing pictures come in, it became that more real. It’s very strange to see pictures of your hometown on the weather channel and news networks showing places that you know exactly where they are. My parent’s and grandparent’s house could have easily been destroyed or them injured. They are still without power, but they are okay. Talk about Praising God… I’m still in shock… Unfortunately, for many others they have extreme damage. My heart breaks for them, and I want to do what I can to help. A family from our church who lives very close to my parents had most of their windows busted out and tress on their house…. But, the Lord protected them.
My first thought after the storm was to try and contact as many people as possible to check on them. Your mind starts going down a checklist. I am thankful for social media because people were posting so we could see if they were okay. It was a relief to find that people were generally fine, even if their homes or possessions were not.
My high school and The University suffered damage. They University worst of all. A school you grew up knowing and then attending and working at covered in debris and damaged buildings makes your heart heavy. But, another God Sent because the students were out for Mardi Gras so the campus was not full and everyone was okay. Truly a miracle… Buildings can be rebuilt, and cars restored, but lives cannot.
|Picture Patrick took this morning on USM's campus|
It’s really hard to describe how I am feeling. It is such a mix of emotions. I feel even different than I did during Katrina, maybe because we knew for a while Katrina was probably coming towards us, maybe because I was younger then, I’m not sure... I am relieved that my family and friends are safe, but heartbroken for those who have lost their homes, and our town for the damage sustained. But, thankful because I know God was watching over all of us. A tornado hitting around you like this makes you even wonder how it didn’t hit your home, so much loss all around. I think it’s also hard because I so badly want to help, but I know I have a job to do as well. I know I can help in different ways other than being on the front lines, but I want people to feel cared about and loved. I can’t begin to imagine what they are experiencing. I am again thankful for a wonderful church family and community who I know is helping those in need. It's hard to see life go back to "normal" when you know so many people are trying to even figure out what "normal" means. But, I guess that is what helps people move forward.
Nevertheless, as many towns before us have had to do, Hattiesburg will rebuild. My prayer is that we come together, helping those in need and appreciate each other. I know The University of Southern Mississippi will pick up the pieces no matter how hard and we will be stronger because of it. We will rebuild and stay strong, and will praise God through this storm….
After something like this, you really appreciate your life. It truly means something when you hear, “Live each day to the fullest.” But, how true it is because you never know when your time here will be over. I hope I hold this close and make each day count. Life is so precious, and I am reminded how blessed I am, and how thankful I am for all my families and friends. I love them dearly.
The Lord is Near, and we will get through this. Praying for Hattiesburg…
*All pictures beside the first one were taken by Patrick this morning.
*I have every intention of doing a 3 year anniversary post, but my heart was heaving reflecting on yesterday. Stay tuned.