Many of you are probably currently familiar with hearing about the tornado that hit Enterprise, Alabama yesterday. What you might not realize is that my wife and I both graduated from the high school that was leveled in that storm system. Seeing the devastation in our old home town has been very surreal for both of us.
Our niece, who is a senior this year, was at the high school when the tornado hit, and suffered some cuts and scratches. Her car was also damaged, but unlike many others we’ve seen on the news, her parents think it should still be drivable. And she was, understandably, upset by the whole experience. We’re left wondering where the students will finish out their school year, and where they’ll hold graduation ceremonies this year.
Just imagine — you’re sitting watching Good Morning America before you go to work, and there are Chris Cuomo and Sam Champion, reporting from the front of your old alma mater. Or, what’s left of it, anyways. You hear reports about how many of the worst injuries occurred in Third Hall, and you realize the irony, because you already know that Third Hall would normally be the safest part of the building. Your Algebra class was on Third Hall. You took semester of Typing in a Third Hall classroom.
You watch the news footage of the football stadium (“…Please remember that there are no al-co-holic beverages allowed in Bates Memorial Stadium…” says a voice from more than twenty years ago), and where there used to be bleachers, there is now a gaping hole. Where there used to be a press box, you just see a couple of shards of walls, tentatively standing on their own. Where there used to be a thicket of pine trees, you find a group of splintery stumps. You used to know that stadium and that football field well. You should have — you were in the famous Enterprise High School Wildcats Marching Band (“Go Big Blue!”), and you marched with pride into every football game.
And there in the background, you see Army helicopters parked on what you know to be the football practice field. And you instinctively know that the helicopters arrived from Fort Rucker, which is located next door to your old hometown. And you see ambulances and fire trucks from all the neighboring towns — Dothan, New Brockton, Daleville, Elba, Ozark… Yes, neighborly love is still alive and well, especially in times of crisis.
As the cameras pan around, you see another large building in the distance, with a sizable hole in the roof. You realize that it’s the sanctuary of St. Luke United Methodist, the church you used to attend. The church you were married in. You still have many friends who attend that church.
You see hear voices and see faces of people you know. GMA talks to Bob Phares, the Assistant Superintendent of Schools. Bob was also your Sunday School teacher. You’ve had dinner with Bob and his wife Susan at several church fellowship meetings. CNN interviews Toni Kaminski, spokeswoman for the Medical Center. But you remember Toni because you used to live in the same neighborhood, and your kids used to go swimming in her pool.
You spend a lot of time on the phone with friends and family, making sure they’re all okay. So far, you haven’t heard of anybody you know who was seriously injured. A few people you know suffered some property damage. A tree falling on a house. A barn blown away. One trailer with a damaged roof, another with its roof completely torn off. But fortunately nobody was home at the time.
And lastly, you wait to hear… You wait to hear the names of those who didn’t make it. Hoping that none of them are people you know, directly or through your friends who still live there. And you pray for the families of those unknown souls, and you guiltily, shamefully, honestly thank the Lord that your own family is safe.
I’ve set up a Yahoo! Pipe to collect information. It’s gathering news stories from Yahoo! and Google, and throwing in any Flickr photos tagged “tornado” and “enterprise”: Enterprise Tornado News. There will also be news from local newspaper sites like the Southeast Sun, the Enterprise Ledger and the Dothan Eagle, none of which have RSS feeds, as far as can tell.