Yesterday, I experienced my first tornado firsthand. I’ve seen the aftermath of several on television and heard many stories from those I know about what it’s like, but while readying a movie review for this site, colbybryant.com, I began receiving messages to be cautious; I hate to say I wasn’t concerned, but I’ve been through many warnings and watches in my life with nothing that happens at all. My wife, of course, was one, who, from our home, was telling me to watch out; we live 30 minutes from where I work, so she filled me in on what could possibly be headed my way. I hadn’t received any notifications on my phone, and I’m not a weather bug, by any means, so I wasn’t aware of anything out of the ordinary. However, just as I finished my review, my father-in-law messaged me to see if I was in shelter. He lives three and a half hours away; I figured in that moment, “If he knows about this storm where he is, I better act fast.” Immediately after his message, an Extreme Alert text blared from my smartphone, so there was no room to debate: the time to act was real. I parked my car inside the garage of where I work, went to the large central restroom in the building, shut the door behind me, and sat down on the floor alone, looking toward the door. The lights went off shortly thereafter, and then, the silence was interrupted by the faintest of sounds: a rushing, whirring noise that barely registered within my ears and lasted only the briefest of moments. It’s worth noting that in watching videos of the event, the storm went straight down our main street and right overhead of where I was. In assessing the structure I was in after all was done, I was relieved to see that nothing was damaged; however the neighboring business beside us had a tree laid over across it. A block away, the brand-new church sign, just recently installed, blew out of its casing and across the street as I watched. I looked around to see scrambling people coming out from their safe places, doing just the same as I, and “storm chasers” whizzed by with video cameras at full attention. It was a surreal experience for my hometown, something we’ve never experienced in my lifetime, at least to this degree.
Upon locking up, I drove through my town. Businesses, right and left, stood without signage, broken glass littered sidewalks and streets, warped metal structures littered yards, cut power lines stretched across streets, and buildings I, myself, hadn’t been inside, lay open and exposed for all eyes to see. Emergency response was fast, and traffic was handled expertly, diverting cars from the most dangerous of locations. The town gazebo, next to our historic train station, was fully collapsed; it’s a place I’ve performed weddings and participated in many charity walks and other events that was now, just like those things in my past, a memory. I snapped numerous pictures, but there was no way for just myself to capture all the damage that was done so quickly. Onlookers walked the streets, curious, shaken, and, on some level, surely relieved that they were able to even do such a thing.
I paint this brief picture with words to set the scene hopefully of a town devastated by collateral damage. As I write this the day after, I’ve talked with those whose job is insurance, and I know this day has been a full one for them. So much damage caused leaving so much work to be done for a small town. All day, I’ve seen locals and those from who knows where working together on removing trees and fixing things in the immediacy of it all. I’m no stranger to seeing such things on news media, but I am when it’s my town, the town I was raised in and graduated from. Still, I must say the reason I wrote this is that through it all, I felt a peace; yes, even on the floor with that faint noise buzzing over me. I knew things would be alright for us all.
You say: “But what about all of that damage? What about the crumbled structures, the broken glass, twisted metal, and chaos strewn about?“
I say: “I know that no one will lose their life due to this storm“, and I was right.
We spend so much time, so much focus, so much money on the material things in our lives. Even with something or some property fully functional before us, we discard or upgrade the things around us for any number of reasons: to better serve ourselves or others, to attract the attention of others, or to somehow try to give us a better peace of mind. So many people live their lives only focused on stuff, big and small. Our minds think “I have this thing, but it could be better, newer, shinier…I have one of this, but I need more, more, more…”
I’m going to share with you something that isn’t a secret: all of the “stuff” in our lives doesn’t matter. It will age, deteriorate, and face obsolescence, and if somehow, our stuff escapes those ends, it will outlast us for a little while longer, and someone else will inherit it for what it is then, good or bad. We spend more money than we can afford on something better: a better house, a better car, a better device, and IT WON’T LAST!
I’ll tell you the preciousness of the moment I witnessed yesterday and continue to see today. Amidst the devastation, I saw people…together. Strangers forced together or neighbors coming together voluntarily, people filled the town, standing beyond the storm; witnessing that, you see what life is really all about. It’s about relationships and time together. It’s about an openness about us to help another alongside us, whether we know them or not, and it’s about closeness in times both good and bad. I, personally, believe that life is about serving and worshiping the Lord, regardless of circumstances, and I have seen so much thankfulness within myself and in others since yesterday. I believe, from time to time, we need a moment of reflection in our lives: a time to re-calibrate our priorities and get things back on track. It’s good to find it ourselves, but sometimes, situations force us to do it. I knew and I know that the God I serve is in control of all things. The material aspects of this life exist to serve us in His plans for us; we do not exist to serve them, which seems all too often to be the case for many. My town, despite its damage, will be better as a result of this storm, and I hope you will see the need to seek out what’s really important in your life as well. May you see the importance of others and of seeking the Lord for yourself!