May 22, 2014

A Bit of My Story

A while ago Amanda asked me if I lived in Joplin during the EF5 Tornado. I was living in Joplin, so I decided to tell a little bit of my story. We lived in the path of the Tornado. Technically, while we were in the path we weren't in the direct line of total devastation. We were two blocks away. Which meant we had broken windows, a whole in our roof, one totaled car, and nearly all of our trees were up rooted. However two blocks down there was nothing. We were very blessed and I believe God's hand was over us.

I decided that today would be a good day to share since it marks 3 years since that day. When you read this, please don't apologize, because these moments I'm sharing have healed and passed. Here is my story.

I was living with my mom at the time. It was Sunday evening and I was cooking dinner. My mom had just finished some yard work and we watched the storm roll in. I went outside to let Zoe in and then went back to cooking dinner. Storms are no big thing in Joplin so we didn't think much about it. The lights started to flicker and my only response was, "the power better not go out until I finish cooking." Like I said, no big thing. So the power went out and my mom and I started to pay a little bit more attention to the weather. I cracked a joke and asked her if she remember where we were supposed to go in a tornado. Her response was wrong and I replied in a joking snarky voice. Our tornado room was my mom's closet. It was in the center of the house and the safest place. We decided that we would at least put the dogs in her room to be prepared so that if something did happen we wouldn't be looking for them.

We headed into my mom's room with the dogs and as we entered I went to look out the window. "If there was any time to get into the closet, it would be now." I couldn't see past our shed outside because of the debris. We sat crouched in the closet holding the dogs and waited. Debris started to hitting the house, we could hear the windows shatter and I heard all the trees hit the ground. My mom and I started to pray and kept waiting for it to be right on top of us. Which, thankfully never happened. The tornado passed and we exited. I called Tyler and all he heard was... "A tornado just went over our house, a tornado just went over our house!" Then the call dropped. He was living in Tennessee at the time.
A lot happened on that day. My brother who was living across down was not affected. He drove over, but had to park a couple of blocks away because nearly all the streets were blocked. I remember things so vividly. Once my brother arrived we walked two blocks dow. The photos above are what I saw. I have many pictures; cars upside down, people searching for others in the debris, people broken and crying. I didn't want to post any of those photos... that was the hardest part, taking those photos. 
Below is a photo of my mom's house. When I see this photo I think about how blessed we were and I think about how Jesus was really with us. Every house surrounding us took on more damage then we did. Every house around us was full of debris. Many people were unable to stay in there homes, but my mom and I still had our beds to sleep in and a roof over our head. We were without power for 9 days and the section of the city we lived in was under curfew because of all the damage and lack of power. When you drove in my neighbor at night it was pitch black. I was stopped a couple times driving home for a vehicle check to confirm I lived in that area.
Over time things started to look up. People came from all over the world to help Joplin rebuild. It was one of the most amazing things I had ever seen. People helped us clean up our yard, people helped us board up our windows, people dropped off food and supplies. The photo below is a wonderful representation of how many people came to help. So many of them signed the inside of this home.
I wanted to end this post on a happy note. So I've include photos from when Extreme Home Maker came to Joplin to build 7 homes in 7 days. I have tons and tons of photos from the tornado and from when Extreme Home Maker was there, but that's TOO many photos. It was crazy, it was amazing, and it was so fun to see!
If you  have made it to the end, you rock! That may have been one of the longest posts I have ever done. Props to you my friend!

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24 comments:

  1. Man. That's crazy. I love the photos though. I know some people don't agree with taking photos of hard things, but that's photojournalism. I believe in photographing everything... good, bad, or scary. Thanks for sharing!

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    1. That is what Tyler and my mom told me when I was taking the photos. It was so hard to take them. I didn't want to share them in this post, because I didn't have their consent and I'm not sure how all that works.

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  2. three years ago was when chattanooga got hit by a really terrible tornado as well. we were fine but just two miles away, everything was gone. just gone. it was a little bit of a wake up call how easily we could lose everything, and it made me think about how i would react if that had happened to us. it definitely made me more grateful for what we have. i'm so thankful you and your mom were okay and for people and towns and a country that comes together to rebuild when disasters like these happen.

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    1. Thanks Meg! It was such a crazy experience! After the tornado anytime there was a big storm I reacted differently which was so weird, because I grew up with storms.
      I'm so glad that you and your family were safe during the chattanooga tornado. It seems like there have been so many more in these recent years.

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  3. Wow, just wow. I had a friend who was at Ozark at the time and I remember hearing about the tornados and praying for him and everyone else in Joplin. Seriously, praise Jesus that you and your mom were okay and that your house was okay. These photos are beautiful in their own way. Heartbreakingly beautiful. I'm so glad you were able to document these stories and be able to look back and really see how much God protected you and your mom. Thank you for sharing this story<3

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    1. You have friends at Ozark!?! Tyler went to Ozark and we know so many people who have gone to the college! Small world!

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  4. Heartbreaking and beautiful photos!! I love your heart! I appreciate you sharing this with us!

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    1. Thanks Eden! I hope we can see each other some time in the next couple years! :) I would love to hang out!

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  5. That's incredible Samantha, a really timely post!
    I'm amazed to see that photo of your mother's house and how the Lord protected it. And I'm glad you had the courage to take the most difficult photos. Sometimes remembering and capturing the most bitter times can bless us when we see how far we have come from then :) Props to YOU!

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    1. Thanks Lorraine! Some of my all time favorite photos come from that time. There are a few I really want to hang in our home and people have thought it was weird.
      But the photos are just so beautiful.

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  6. Has anyone ever told you that the brick house with the flag belonged to Chesney Willis' in-laws? Brad is Bobby's best friend. He had been there many times! Theirs was like ours, damaged beyond repair, but it was still standing.

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    1. I remember when you told me that. I thought the imagery behind that photo was so beautiful.

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  7. Thanks for sharing this post Samantha.
    What a devastating event.
    It's good to be reminded of God's protections and provision, and of really hard things that people have gone through.

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    1. Thanks so much for making it all the way to the end! That was one of my longest posts. It was kind of weird for me to share. I'm not sure why, but I'm so glad I did.

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  8. Holy cow! Incredible. What a horrific thing to have to go through. But amen on your outlook! And those pictures are amazing.

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    1. Thanks! It was such a crazy experience and I still remember it so clearly.

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  9. This is such a touching, devastating story. I can't believe you went through that, I bet it was terrifying! It's so beautiful how so many people came to help you and your city. How long were you and your mom in her closet?

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    1. Thanks Jenna! It was an incredible experience seeing so many people come to help our city.
      I even started taking photos of each group that a came by. I don't actually remember how long we were in the closet. Not very long, maybe a minute or two.

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  10. Wow! Thank you for sharing your story. I was still in college and in Tuscaloosa when the F4 tornado went through there in 2011. I was on campus and less than half a mile away from the storm. I recently shared my story about that day as well and experienced and felt many of the same things you did. Like you said, seeing people from all over coming to help our town was one of the coolest things ever. It was such a blessing to receive that help, but also lend it out to others as well. That day will be one I will never forget, but seeing the way God provided and protected me and the people I know, and seeing the Church come together are things I will also never forget.

    Here's the link to my post: http://polishedarrow.weebly.com/blog/hard-scary-traumatic

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    1. Jess, I'm so glad you shared your story too. It so amazing to know that there are lots of others out there that share similar experiences. And it really is so amazing see so many people help out.

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  11. This is very similar to how Moore looked after the May 20 tornado. So crazy that kind of destruction and seeing it up close. Thanks for sharing.

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    1. I feel like there have been so many tornadoes. It has been really interesting hearing about all the other devastating tornadoes that occurred around the same couple of years.

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  12. Samantha! What a crazy and beautiful story. Natural disasters are crazy and all though I have never been in a tornado, I was evacuated in 2012 with the Waldo Canyon fire in Colorado Springs which was simply insane. You have no idea what you will feel like until you are in the middle of that situation. I remember the day I looked up at my beautiful mountains and saw fire rushing down them all night the city glowed with fire and I knew I would never be able to go home. The Lord blessed us and although I was sure my house was gone, the firefighters had saved it. Just a little smoke damage but nothing that a little cleaning could not fix. I know the devastating feeling of walking through the rubble and almost feeling guilty that your house was spared when many others were not...

    Thanks for sharing your story.

    http://www.oakandoats.com/search/label/Fire

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    1. That sounds so crazy. I can't even image what it would be like to watch a fire engulf your town and possibly your home and not be able to do anything about it. Just crazy.
      Where did you stay when you were evacuated?

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