There are words and pictures. You sit across from them and feel some semblance of control. You are powerful. You can share, connect, commiserate, cry. You are safe.
And then there's driving a 15-mile circuit to get a quarter-mile down the road from your house. Dogs roaming the woods behind your house, barking throughout the night. Mountains of wood and twisted metal where buildings used to be. Piles of wood, shredded roofing, and strewn, destroyed contents of someone's life scattered across land that used to hold neighborhoods. Siding draped across power lines, foundations with no walls, a single room in a field of trash that used to be someone's life savings.
No control. Powerless.
According to the National Weather Service, the massive tornado supercell formed at the southern tip of our county at 2:53pm and then cut a three-mile wide path of devastaton across 63 miles of North Carolina. The EF-3 tornado was on the ground for more than an hour with winds at 160mph. So many people died, two of them here.
Breathless with the overwhelm of so much loss.
And yet. There's hope, here, too.
You see it in how strangers come together to help. How people have flocked to this area and its Facebook pages to donate their resources, escalate the most urgent needs, give official updates. How your eyes water when you pass the devastation but then your heart lifts up when you see so many people bent-backed and muscles flexed as they dig out the life we once had.
The Lee County NC Red Cross anticipates $100,000 in need. The volunteer networks I'm connected with and the girls I'm personally working with to coordinate updates and help would estimate a much higher number. Entire neighborhoods have been so isolated by the damage that they are just now able to alert rescue workers to their needs. We got food out today to a community that contained children who'd not had a full meal since Saturday.
Children without food for days. And yet.
My community is gracious and humble. Not a single person has complained or pondered why. We have all pitched in together and thanked the Lord for the grace we received. All of this loss and only two deaths.
--There was an elderly man in this building. He walked away unharmed.
--Inside this building worked a weekend shift. In a building behind this was a different set of workers. Both buildings are destroyed, but no one was hurt.
--In a home in this neighborhood, a father laid across his four year old son as the tornado ripped his home away. When he looked up, the only thing left was him, his child, and the foundation they were lying on. They were both unharmed.
-- Lowe's Home Improvement's was demolished by the twister. Saturday afternoons are its busiest times. And yet in an entire store full of people, no one was hurt.
-- Only one death in Lemon Springs, where impassable roads and gas leaks have kept rescue workers busy for days. Only one death in East Sanford, where children are just today getting food.
It could've been so much worse.
I know these are just words on a page and you feel in control, powerful. You are there. You are safe. I felt that way, too. This storm passed through our county in a matter of minutes. That father had no time to do anything except offer up his body as a shield, thinking to himself, "Lord if you're taking anyone, it'll be me."
Prepare yourself for disaster. Take warnings seriously. Know the safest area of your home. And then pray.
That last part is what's getting us through.
***To aid my town of Sanford in Lee County NC, you can make online donations to the Lee County American Red Cross via the Lee County United Way's website. Use zip code 27330. You will not be charged any fees and 100 percent of this donation goes to the local Red Cross.
***Amazing professional photographs available here and here.
***This week only, you can access our local paper -- The Sanford Herald -- online for free. They are doing an amazing job with coverage!