As I stood out on my deck this morning watching the girls play in the yard, I looked up and noticed this gorgeous blue sky with birds singing in the trees and squirrels racing along the branches.  So peaceful, so lovely, so calm!  It brought the first smile to my face since a little before 3:00 pm yesterday.  Until that moment, I had no smiles, no sense that the near future had any hope for peace and calm in this community.  My emotions over the past 24 or so hours ran the gambit of terror, fear, sadness, compassion, and relief.  My heart is breaking and, yet, I am eternally grateful.

Yesterday, our community was hit by a devastating tornado that resulted in lost homes, lost businesses, and lost lives.  The day started out as a normal spring time Saturday morning and the only potential wrench in what should be a gorgeous day was the threat of some severe thunderstorms later in the afternoon.  Regardless of the forecasted rain, people went about enjoying the day — shopping, errands, routine Saturday activities, community events – including the annual Broadway Our Way event in nearby Broadway, NC.  But the day ended with mass destruction, fear, chaos, sirens, emergency rescue efforts, news helicopters, the National Guard, tears – lots of tears, blessings being counted………and a broken community coming together to assess what may be needed to overcome the wrath that nature bestowed upon us.

I am choosing to only post the picture of today’s beautiful blue sky in an attempt to remind myself and others that life does go on – even after something like this.  But, I would also like to share the powerful photos in this link to a slide show put together by Sanford Herald photographer, Wesley Beeson – they show the devastation, but also the compassion and immediate “rush to aid” that was so impressive in the aftermath.  Click here to see them!

As for me, I am OK!  The storm pretty much stayed in the South Horner Blvd, Lee Avenue / Industrial Drive, and St. Andrews / Lemon Springs areas and then moved on out of our community to unleash more evil on the Raleigh area.  When I saw WRAL’s Facebook post saying “Sanford, take cover NOW”, I gathered up the girls and shut us up in the small guest bathroom, which is the only room in my home that has no exterior walls.   I have never been so afraid of a storm  – I live in a solid house that is well-built and sturdy – I typically don’t get nervous or scared with the threat of storms, but the warnings of this one just felt different!  I heeded the advice and took shelter in the bathroom that never felt so small until I was in it with the door shut and three dogs.  I never lost power, but did lose internet and cable, so my access to news updates and information came via my iPhone’s Facebook app.  When I emerged from my safe haven, I found that we and my neighborhood was spared – no damage, just signs of some minor leaf and limb debris and a very saturated yard from the massive rainfall.  I am truly grateful to be able to say that and am heartbroken for those who can not say it!  But, as heartbroken as I am, I didn’t cry last night – something I found very odd and disturbing!  I am a very emotional person and cry at the least little thing that touches my heart – good or bad – so, why not over this?  I wondered if it was because it hadn’t sunk in, yet – maybe hearing the reports and the few photos I saw didn’t make it seem “real” – maybe I was just too stunned.  All that changed this morning when more photos came out and more reports were posted – I started to cry and couldn’t stop!  I felt helpless!  I had to be realistic – I am not physically able to get out there with a chainsaw or to pitch in to haul large debris in the clean up efforts.  But, there was a lot more that was and still is needed – I dropped off a donation at the Lee County Red Cross and some food and cleaning supplies at a collection point at Lowes Foods.  It is a small contribution to the overall help that is needed, but at least I did what I could and that helps me honor my pride in our community.  Yesterday, right after everything settled down, I went out for a bit – I know I probably shouldn’t have ventured out, but my best friends are out-of-town and I couldn’t tell from the postings if their area was hit.  So, I drove out to check out their home – thankfully, all was fine and I was able to call them and put their minds at ease.

So, as I reflected last night on what had occurred here and my personal experience, I found that I am blessed and grateful for many things.  Some of them may seem trivial or self-centered in the grand scheme of things, but isn’t that what blessing counting is all about – recognizing the things in your life, big or small, that give you something to be grateful for and taking the time to consider them blessings to be counted?  Here are some of the things that went through my mind during my time in the bathroom and throughout the evening that followed:

  • I am so very grateful that the worst thing I personally had to endure was being terrified and locked up in a small bathroom with three dogs for an hour or so.
  • I am grateful for Facebook for several reasons:
    • the WRAL posting that made me realize this was to be taken seriously because there was a potential I could be in imminent danger!
    • the postings of friends passing on information about what was going on
    • the postings of friends saying they were OK
  • I am grateful that my family lives 800+ miles away – WOW – that is the first time I EVER thought that!!!  But, knowing they were all far away from the storm meant that I didn’t have to wonder if they were OK
  • I am grateful that I had a slow start yesterday morning and didn’t get out and about as planned – I got up rather late, was slow to get motivated to do anything, and then got tied up and didn’t go out to do the things I had planned for Saturday.  Popping in to Lowes and Big Lots were on my errand list and, if things had gone as planned, I likely would have been in one or the other or at least in the general vicinity right about the time the storm hit!!!!
  • I am grateful that it happened in the middle of the day in broad daylight so that people could see what was coming and get to safety, where possible, and see to assess the situation immediately afterwards
  • I am grateful for all the emergency responders who seemed to be there and working to care for those in need in a flash!
  • I am grateful for my decision to purchase THIS house – not only because it is located in an area that didn’t get hit, but more so because one of the top three I was considering was located in the St. Andrews subdivision!!!
  • I am grateful for the beautiful weather we are having today and over the coming week – it will help a lot as our community needs to get out there to clean up

Yes, I have a lot of blessings to count……..if you are counting your blessings today, as well, please consider sharing your time, money, supplies, comforting words or support, or prayers – whatever you can do that may help someone who has a few less blessings to count today!  A lot is needed right away, but more will be needed as our community begins to rebuild.  If considering a monetary donation, please be sure to donate directly to the Lee County NC Red Cross at 507 N. Steele Street to ensure the money stays here in Lee County and is applied to this disaster relief effort.

It is a sad weekend in Sanford, but I am so encouraged by the way everyone is pulling together and helping out in whatever way they are able……….shows the strength of character of a community and this community is overflowing with it!

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