Sunday, June 7, 2009

June 7, 1984

Do you remember where you were 25 years ago? To the minute?

Unfortunately I do. So does my family. And so do many of the people that live in my community.

June 7, 1984 started like the days before. It was hot. And my sister and I had Bible School at church. This was taken on the morning of June 7th. (Don't you love Kristen's glasses? And I'm not sure why we were holding the flowers like they were attached to our chins.) But anyway, the day started normally. (Just disregard the stupid black dots on Kristen's face and on all the subsequent pictures. Stupid scanner and it's dirty glass that I didn't realize was dirty until I scanned everything in.)

That evening, at about 9:45 p.m., a tornado ripped through our community. And right through my parents farm.

I was six at the time, and my memories of the actual tornado are a bit fuzzy. I remember my dad telling us to go to the basement, and my mom running back up the stairs to do something or get something. She did make it downstairs finally, although it has taken me a while to not have anymore dreams where my mom doesn't make it to the basement and to safety with us. As for memories of the actual tornado, I have brief memories of what we did and how it sounded. Thankfully not too many though. (I have enough issues without having to remember it in detail!)

I do remember having to stay in the basement for what seemed like forever. And when we did venture out, it seems like it was up the back stairs to the garage where we either got a phone call that my brother and sister were OK or maybe my brother Mike had gotten home then or something. (Mom, you can verify if that is correct or way off base.) That night my sister and I went to my grandparents house to sleep. We slept in the basement (no bedrooms were in their basement, but I'm assuming we were too scared to sleep on the main level of the house.) Grandma gave us Pepto-Bismol, and to this day I can't stand the stuff.

The next day was when we saw the extent of the damage. Not just to our home and farm, but to our whole community. And in my 6-year-old mind, my whole world had just turned upside down.

Our house didn't sustain too much damage considering what happened to the other buildings on the farm. The large windows in the front of the house were broken (hence the plywood nailed to the front of the house in the picture below.) I think our garage was moved off the foundation a little bit. But this was pretty minor damage to the house.

Our barn was gone. The big, red, awesome old barn was blown to bits. The picture below is obviously before the tornado.

Our beautiful old willow tree in the front yard was damaged beyond repair. And I was just getting to be old enough and big enough to be able to climb it.

The white shed that is wrapped around the tree in the picture below had just been painted a day or two before.

This old corn crib was torn down shortly after the picture was taken. If you can tell, that's my dad carrying me as he walks away from the corn crib. I'm pretty sure I remember crying as that corn crib went down.

And although the destruction seemed devastating to me (and I assume my parents), our farm was a lot better off than our neighbors that lived just up the road from us.

This was our neighbor's house and what used to be their farm. Everything was destroyed. Their house was beyond repair and was demolished. And they moved away.

This was what I've remembered for 25 years. What I've had nighmares about for 25 years. And what has haunted me for 25 years.

I recently heard the rest of the story. How even though so many things were destroyed, God protected us. And sheltered us. And provided for us.

The hundreds of people that came the very next day to help. And they kept coming for days and days after that. They helped clean up the rubble of the destroyed buildings. They brought food. And snacks. And drinks. They picked up debris in our yard. They walked in the fields and rode on wagons in the fields to pick up debris. After they helped us clean up, they also helped us rebuild.

They cried with us. And they laughed with us. (Mom, Ed Martin shared the story during Sunday School this morning of the little stone donkey planter that survived the tornado...and we all had a good laugh. I'm assuming you remember that donkey?) They didn't just help us. They restored our faith and our hope.

This morning our church held a remembrance of the tornado of June 7, 1984. The whole morning we heard stories of God's faithfulness to his people. And stories of the strength of community. And I finally got it. That the tornado doesn't just represent destruction and fear. But community and hope and healing.



Mary and Wilbur Litwiller said...

How can I comment on this blog. I sit here a friends kitchen in Calgary, Alberta, with tears in my eyes. I am pained to have missed the service at church, yesterday and also pained with the memories. But the real story is about hope and a wonderful community of support, their love and patience and kindness. The memories are difficult even today, and sometimes it seems like only yesterday. We give thanks to God for sparing our lives along with so many others in our community. Thanks to many for rebuilding our lives and giving us hope.

kristen said...

I sat through church on Sunday and didn't shed a tear and now all I can do is cry. You've put this into such a meaningful perspective from a 6 year old's memory. It is so interesting the difference in the things that we remember. I don't even remember mom going back upstairs. I remember the trauma of having to pee in the floor drain while in the basement. Maybe that's why I hate port-o-potties. I also remember the special people who came to our house to help and did special things with us so that we would have some happy memories. Thanks for sharing!

Nelson Family said...

We all have had tough memories to go back to and the way you all celebrated it in church was great, its wonderful when something funny or uplifting can come of something so scary.
By the way, since you were 6 at the time and its been 25 years that means your 31. So your just older than me. You havent written your personal blog yet so I'm grasping every little detail to find out who you are! If you can survive a tornado and the dreams after it I'm sure you can muster the strengh to write alittle about yourself!!!
Love the pictures of all the flowers, my mother would have been so mad if we'd touched her garden of flowers even if she wasnt home... haha

shanab said...

When you shared in church that you are finally seeing the healing and hope that are part of the tornado story, I thought that was the best part of the service. It confirmed for me that the day of remembrance was needed. That so many people returned for it and shared their stories also testifies to that. Thanks for this entry!