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My tornado story: fear overcome by love

Thursday, May 2, 2019
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This morning marked a full week since the tornado tore areas of Ruston apart.

There’s really nothing else I could possibly write this column about. out for me as I stumbled from one side of the house to the other to see what was happening. I returned to the hallway and held her, trying to convince her and myself that it was just noise, But I still don’t really know what to say.

What can I write that hasn’t already been said? What facts, emotions, or perspectives can I give that aren’t pretty much implied at this point?

All I can tell is my story, since I’m blessed with the space to tell it.

My wife Cydney and I live on Evans Street. If you just noise.

It somehow felt like an eternity and just an instant at the same time, and then it was over, and silence reigned once more.

After a while, we cautiously stepped onto our porch. It was the most surreal experience of my young life: joining our neighbors with our phone flashlights, waiting for lightning flashes know that name, it’s probably because you heard it on the news last week. The two lives the storm claimed that night were taken just a tree’s length away from where we sleep.

The first time I woke up that night, the severe weather siren was blaring away. We always hear it loud and clear, and it never seems to be followed by anything serious. I sometimes joke when it goes off: “If it’s my time to go, then it’s my time to go.”

It darn well could have been my time that night.

After blocking out the sound of the siren we never take seriously, we awoke a second time to a noise my groggy mind couldn’t really understand.

In retrospect I know it was high winds, but at the time it was just pure loudness, the raw absence of silence, an intangible but unavoidable end to the peaceful, safe night we had been clinging to since the siren had tried to warn us.

Cydney, acting on adrenaline, pulled on my arm until I followed her into the hallway.

I remember her shaking and calling to illuminate the damage, and seeing the tangled web of power lines hanging across the street like vines in a jungle.

Fast forward to dawn. A large tree just feet from our bedroom had been uprooted and thrust into our neighbor’s backyard, and several more had made our own backyard an impenetrable maze of wood. But by some miracle beyond my comprehension, not a single limb hit our house or our cars.

Others were not so lucky. We were told to leave the area pretty quickly that morning, so I didn’t know for sure until later that Kendra Butler and her son Remington didn’t make it. I had only interacted with Kendra once, so I can’t say I knew her personally, but the shock of a neighbor’s sudden death will not soon be forgotten.

I’ve never seen my wife as terrified as she was that night. And I’ve very seldom seen her as emotionally distraught as she was this Tuesday morning when her tension and adrenaline finally faded and the floodgates were allowed to overflow.

Survivor’s guilt is real. Maybe I’m not self-aware enough to know if it will haunt me yet, but I see it in Cydney’s face every day.

But what has definitely eased the stress is the remarkable response from our friends, family, and church body who have come around us and made us whole. From what I’ve heard, that response is pretty consistent among every part of the Ruston community.

We were slated to publicly join the membership at The Bridge Community Church Sunday, and the events of Thursday and Friday made that an extremely poignant experience.

Even though others certainly had it worse, as soon as we mentioned the state of our backyard, dozens of friends and church members mobilized to clear it away. We still don’t have power as I write this Tuesday, but some good friends of ours at The Bridge have graciously opened their homes to us until our electricity returns.

Unbelievably, beautifully, we want for nothing. Our needs have been supplied before we even expressed them.

AndthenSundaymorning,Cydney and I got to stand before those same people and join the church as members — meaning we align ourselves with their beliefs, goals and purpose, a purpose largely focused on exemplifying the love of Christ outwardly in the community. I’ve already seen that on full display last week.

I love Ruston and its people. I’m still processing what we’ve collectively been through. But I know we’ll get to a place where it’s just a memory. Despite the destruction, thanks to the amazing hearts of so many around us, not all those memories will be bad.

Caleb Daniel is a reporter and Louisiana Tech University graduate who covers the Lincoln Parish Police Jury and schools for the Ruston Leader.