I have a hate-love relationship with storms. I hate it when anything or anyone is harmed, and I love being reminded of the raw power of weather. It makes me feel blessedly and necessarily small. I hate the fear and the loss, and I love how the community springs into life and love by beginning to help those in need the moment the last siren is silent.
As is always the case when we take a hit, (or several, for that matter,) there are untold stories of heroism, dogged dedication to service, simple kindnesses, and restorative reassurance. On our street, we came out and called out to each other.
“Yep, we’re fine.”
“You need anything?”
“Nope, going to go see what I can do to help. Thanks for asking.”
My husband, Steve, went to take a chainsaw to some trees that had fallen against the roof of a friend who lives a few miles away from us. Neighbors were dragging branches off the property and into a pile. I tried to get to an elderly couple near Lucy’s Branch, but Hwy 72 was unmanageable. Their son had come down from Tennessee, and had walked a good while to get to them. Although their property was damaged, they were fine and in the shelter of the kindness of neighbors.
City of Athens Communication Specialist, Holly Hollman, had stayed up til midnight the night of the storm to help keep us updated, went home for a bit of rest, and then let us know that she was going to see if there was anything she could do at the site of Coxey Church of Christ, which was destroyed. It was also her home church, and more importantly, it was the Body of Christ taking care of the Body of Christ.
Deputy Sheriff Paul Cain had also been up all night and had gone home for a nap, not knowing if the second day of storms was going to compound an already difficult situation. Classic Closet owner Lori Ish was busy gathering up clothes to donate. It was after the 2011 storms that her store gave away prom dresses to girls who would have not otherwise had the chance to go to their proms. Perhaps in the eternal scheme of things, going to the prom is not going to change the world, but to be thought of in a tangible way in such chaos warmed the hearts of more than 150 teenage girls who endured that storm. In this current situation, women and children would be receiving more practical care, and all of it comes from the heart of a woman who simply loves to serve. Athens is full of people like this, and it is one of the reasons I love this city so.
There will never be enough words to express our gratitude to all of the crews who have been on duty cleaning up, restoring power, directing traffic, protecting us, and even imposing a curfew. However, today as we were assembled at the Courthouse steps for the annual National Day of Prayer gathering, there was a much smaller number of people present, simply because, as Jaina Anderson, of 1st United Methodist Church pointed out, “people are out helping.” Back when I was in theological school, that was called “putting legs to your prayers.”
Different ministers prayed for various areas of need in our nation, for leadership, our soldiers, the government, the emergency responders, communities, schools, the medical community, churches and families. All prayers were heartfelt, and all scriptures pertinent, but it was the prayer of Greg Patrick that touched me the most. He and his family had been trapped in a shelter that had been struck by trees. He told through the tears in his throat of the relief of the sound of the voice of a fire fighter that they would get them out soon. They were unharmed and deeply grateful, and he was unashamed in his expression of thanks. So, my hate-love relationship with storms has deepened, our community is shining, and my gratitude to God for being a citizen of Athens, Alabama has grown once again.
By: Ali Elizabeth Turner