I sit here on my couch, in my home, freshly showered with clean clothes on. I have my boyfriend sitting next to me working on his computer and my dog resting quietly on her blanket. We have a roof over our heads. There is food in the refrigerator. We have electricity and running water. Except for a sunburn and very irritated eyes, I am comfortable.
That is not so for many families living in communities surrounding mine. Here in the western part of Massachusetts on Wednesday June 1, 2011, several tornadoes ripped through this part of the state leaving a pattern of devastation so rarely, if ever, seen in this little hub of New England. We just don't get tornadoes of this magnitude in this part of the country. It is something that we hear about happening in Missouri or Kansas. Massachusetts averages two tornadoes a year and to be honest, you usually never hear about them. Most of us have only seen photos on TV of torn off tree tops and flattened homes.
Nothing can really prepare you for the sight of the landscape you see when you approach a part of a town that has seen a tornado tear through it. The trees are gone, or at very least the tops of them. Whole buildings are collapsed. There are wires down on the street every which way you turn. National Guard personnel stand on the street corners and walk down the sidewalks. As we drove through, it seemed to me that the scene might be similar to a war zone as depicted on TV. There are claims adjusters and other official looking people going from site to site. People's belongings are strewn all over not only their lawns, but on their neighbor's neighbor's lawn.
We sorted and we sifted. We made piles. We lifted, hauled, and carried. We gave hugs. We tried to console without letting the victims see our tearful eyes behind our dark sunglasses. Part of me felt like I was privy to the insides of someone's life as I was sorting through their clothes and other personal belongings. I couldn't help but imagine what it would be like to be so displaced; to have strangers sorting through your belongings and in less than two minutes, to have your entire existence as you know it changed forever. I don't know personally the people that we helped today, but I knew that I just wanted to turn back the clock for them and freeze May 31, 2011 so that they never had to experience the loss and sorrow associated with June 1, 2011.