Monday, April 28, 2014

Tornadoes

Growing up, I sat and watched the TV screen countless times as local meteorologist Glenn Burns tracked tornadoes through Georgia...

A tornado would be heading right towards a subdivision, and Glenn Burns would tell residents to put on bicycle helmets and get to a room with no exterior walls... His tone was urgent but laced with a collected calmness that made you believe if you did what he said you'd be okay...

This one time, we were watching Glenn Burns, and the tornado sirens started to go off. He said the tornado was heading towards a street that was right behind our house. It was just us kids at home. Paul went into "protector mode" and grabbed all of the cushions off the couch in the living room. Somehow all three of us kids and all of our animals got underneath the cushions and inside the downstairs bathroom to ride it out...

When the tornado hit my dorm in 2008, it was my sorority president, not Glenn Burns, who let us know we had to get down to a safe place.



It wasn't 30 seconds after I'd answered her call that me and 3 of my sorority sisters were running into the hallway for the stairwell... Everyone always says, "It hit like a train." And, that's exactly what it felt like.

Last night, I sat with my knees held against my chest with eyes glued to the television screen as the local meteorologists tracked a big tornado through Arkansas.

Sirens were going off outside, and the lights were flickering. I could see that it wasn't coming towards us, but it was going straight towards friends and family to the west... Friends and family who I knew didn't have basements or stairwells.

Praise God, our friends and family members all around the state are okay. Some have trees on top of their homes and/or are without power, but they are alive.

I turn on the local news to see the footage everyone keeps texting me about... And I can't watch it for more than 5 minutes.
Picture from KATV Channel 7

Because living here has changed me.

It's not just a news story. It's not just footage. Those aren't just country people in the next city. Those are our neighbors. I've never met them. But that doesn't matter.

It's like night and day compared to the tornado that hit Roswell, GA in 2006.  I grew up in Alpharetta (the city next-door to Roswell), but our church was in Roswell. We obviously knew dozens of families in that city, but we didn't personally know anyone who was affected by the tornado. Honestly, the greatest impact it had on our lives was that we weren't sure if I'd be able to have my makeup done for prom at the salon where we'd scheduled an appointment. It's not that we didn't care about the people whose homes were affected. We just didn't know them, and we didn't feel connected to them. There are almost 100,00 people who live in Roswell. Roswell might have been our neighboring city, but it's residents weren't our neighbors. Neighbors lived in the same subdivision as you. And even then, subdivisions are quite large in that part of Georgia, so you didn't even know a quarter of the families who were your neighbors anyway.

But, living here, I feel differently about neighbors. Neighbors aren't just in subdivisions. Neighbors are the people across the street from us and all of the other people on this side of the Arkansas River.

And when the meteorologists told us last night to wait before we drove to the cities that had been hit by the tornados so that rescue crews could get in first, I didn't understand at first why he said that.

Why would we drive up there? More storms could be coming. Why would we leave our homes?

But today, as I look at the footage of the damage that's just 20 miles from my house, I understand.

It's because I look at the destruction, and I see demolished homes that belong to our neighbors. Even though you don't personally know them, it still feels personal.

I never felt like that in Georgia. I never felt this tug on my heart loving and breaking for neighbors in this way.

Would it break for people in third world countries? Of course.

Or for people I personally knew? Definitely.

But, the stranger I don't know who lives two cities over? Not like this.

Living here is changing me.... Love your neighbor is taking on new meaning to say the least.


I'll be giving all of my profits this week from my Mary Kay business to help Arkansas tornado victims. Our products range from skincare for men, women, and teens, glamour, fragrance, and body care. Please consider ordering something this week if you don't already have a Mary Kay consultant at www.marykay.com/lwarford . Thank you for supporting our neighbors. God bless you. - Lindsay