It is April 27 and I am watching the hours pass by one by one, thinking back to the day last year when the Alabama sky rolled up its sleeve and pummeled us poor mortals with punch after painful punch. I realize that I’m unconsciously waiting for 3:15, or thereabouts, the hour when Cullman winced, braced, ducked, and took its hit. I’m remembering the series of news reports that kept coming throughout the day – a blow here, and then there, and then elsewhere, and then Cullman…and then… The punches just kept coming, north and south across the state, all the livelong day. The muscular sky just wouldn’t let up.
I’m remembering the increasing frequency of our skyward glances as the day wore on. I’m remembering the fervor of our prayers. I’m remembering the unplugging of computers, the gathering of flashlights, and other preparatory measures. I’m remembering the cry of the TV weathercaster, “If you’re in Cullman, take cover NOW!” And then the TV went dead.
We had taken cover. We were safe. Several of our buildings suffered damage and swaths of trees were downed in our woods. But we were safe, thanks be to God.
Our town and state are have spent the past year recovering and rebuilding. A Cullman café that the tornado ground like handful of coffee beans is once again pouring joe. The downtown barber pulled his scissors from the rubble and has reshaped his shattered shop. Dentists, lawyers, and others have found new spaces for their offices and businesses. The churches that were destroyed have their rebuilding plans in hand.
But there are so many who lost their lives that day – 244 in Alabama alone. And so many whose lives are altered and not yet fully rebuilt. And in the year since, there have been so many others in so many other places who have had to yield to a pummeling sky.
But right now the day is radiant and the sky is bright, as if someone has poured a decanter of benevolence across the land. It is kind of like the decanter of benevolence that flowed after last year’s post-tornado darkness, flowing from all quarters in the hours, weeks, and months after the storm as people rolled up their sleeves and poured kindness, support, beneficence, and compassion across our town and our state. And they have not let up. As the rebuilding continues, the goodness of God and the goodness of neighbors are proving to be more than a match for a muscular sky.
Postscript: To read more about our community’s experience with last year’s tornado, click on the April and May archive entries at left. And here is link to a brief piece in the American Monastic Newsletter.