So for those of you who live in Alabama, the name James Spann needs no explanation. Although he is merely a weather man, he has emerged in the last several years to be a celebrity of sorts. In part, it has to do with his demeanor and his enthusiasm for meteorology. But for another part, it has to do with how he has become synonymous with severe weather. He is a trusted source for the weather in our state, and I haven't met s single person who doesn't think of him as a trustworthy beacon of knowledge on the topic. In fact, the man is so popular that he actually has more Facebook friends AND Twitter followers than Diane Sawyer. But with all glowing remarks aside, James Spann is actually a person, and today, he made me cry.
I went to a monthly luncheon of my professional organization for my job, PRCA, and he was the guest speaker. Since he is from the Tuscaloosa area and since the April 27 tornado was such a big part of this community, most of his remarks were naturally about that day and his part in it. He talked about the warning systems and how he spent hours on end trying to answer tweets and Facebook posts, because he knew that not everyone watches the TV, or has access to TV, and he felt as though if he could reach out to as many people as possible, perhaps those people who didn't know could be warned and taken to a safe place. Still and all, there ended up being 252 deaths - 41 of them in my city alone. And that is too many. He talked about how the antiquated tornado siren system does not work, and that everyone needs to rethink how they get weather alerts.
But then he also talked about the damage itself. He showed clips from the live broadcast of that day. Our power went out right at when they showed the trunk of the storm over Central High School. Today was the first time I actually saw where the tornado hit my house. In many ways, I have avoided seeing that footage. It almost as if I didn't see it, then it didn't really happen. It didn't really do all the horrible things that it did. But I know that I can't run away from that experience. When he switched to the aerial shots of Forest Lake from the next day, and I saw my old house crumpled in a pile of other houses that were indistinguishable from piles of lumber, I started to tear up.
It has been a while since I have really thought about the tornado. In fact, when someone mentioned we were nearing a one-year anniversary in just three months, I was taken aback. I cannot believe so much time has passed, and yet in some places in Tuscaloosa, it looks as though it happened yesterday. Fortunately, my family has been able to relocate and start over, but I know there are many that still have not be able to. And that makes me sad.
I guess I cried out of sadness.
I guess I cried out of anger.
I guess I cried because I didn't know how else to feel.
That storm changed so many things. And as much as I'd like to admit that I am over it, I think that it will still come back and get me like it did today.
But this is what I have learned.
People are important above any material thing.
Relationships require healing, just like physical wounds.
Life is a fragile and strange thing.
You think you have it figured out, and then all of a sudden you feel like you don't know a thing in the world.