Column: Dealing with the aftermath of the worst storm I ever saw
by Will Heath
May 05, 2011 | 1511 views |  0 comments | 4 4 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Battered and torn

Still I can see the light

Tattered and worn

But I must kneel to fight


There’s no good way to write this column.

Seriously, I’m trying. I’ve written the lead for it six different times, and every time I wind up punching delete and starting over. It’s possible this paragraph won’t make the column, either.

A week has passed since the storms came through, the ones that destroyed property, knocked out power, killed people and generally derailed the lives of everyone in this part of the world. Feels like it’s been an hour.

(Note: I woke up Friday morning and was astonished to see people talking about a royal wedding and the NFL Draft. Seriously, I was stunned. Did the world not stop on Wednesday? Who gave it permission to start again?)

Our society is filled with hyperbole. We have a tendency to think whatever’s happening at any given moment is the greatest, most memorable thing that’s ever happened in the history of mankind.

“He’s the worst president ever.”

“This is the greatest night in history.”

“He’s the strongest person I’ve ever seen.”

If you hear it long enough, you start to feel suspicious of any talk like that. Which means you probably rolled your eyes when heads started calling this “the worst storm in the history of our state.”

Come now, could it really be so bad?

Only then you start seeing the images, those “doomsday” style twisters that left nuclear-style wreckage in their collective wake. And then the numbers start to roll in — I’d repeat them for you, but I’m guessing you don’t need me to. And then the stories start to trickle out.

For once, the hyperbole is inadequate to describe the actual event.

There’s a tendency throughout history to associate certain events with certain places. For example, Hurricane Katrina is most often associated with New Orleans, even though what it did to the coast in Mississippi was by all accounts just as bad. Sept. 11, 2001, receives the same treatment: Everyone thinks of the World Trade Center in New York and usually forget completely about the attack on the Pentagon, or the plane that crashed in Pennsylvania.

A number of people we’ve talked to have that fear about this storm, that it will somehow become “The Tuscaloosa Tornado,” and most of the aid and attention will go there.

Believe me, no one loves Tuscaloosa more than I do. It was my home for four years, it’s where I met my wife and most of the people I now call my best friends (some of whom still live there). I’m praying and hurting for Tuscaloosa just as hard as I can.

It’s just that there are about a dozen other places around the state in need of just as much aid, just as much prayer and just as much attention. And that includes St. Clair County, and especially Shoal Creek Valley. We’re all suffering, and we’re going to be suffering for some time.

So yeah, pray for Tuscaloosa. Pray for us all.

When I’m tired and weary

And a long way from home

I reach for Mother Mary

And I shall not walk alone


Contact Will Heath at wheath@thestclairtimes.com.

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