Wednesday, July 6, 2011

6 Weeks Later, In Small Bites

A YouTube video -- one of many, actually -- circulated around Facebook in the early days after the tornado struck, and I didn't ever watch it.  Driving across the swath of destruction was enough for me already, but the title and song choice that played on the video struck me deeply.  It was called Where the streets have no name

I do love U2, and I do love that song, but to hear it applied to my hometown was heartbreaking.  And true; the streets had no names after the tornado.  Roadsigns were ripped away and mangled with other debris as the great, dirty wind passed by.  Thus, we couldn't be sure where we were, unless it was on a major thoroughfare. 

Now, there are still missing roadsigns, although some are starting to be replaced with temporary poster-like signs.  But the thing I never imagined before -- the thing that still strikes me as a fact that only people living in a disaster area would know -- is how we've coped with it.  Partly through the use of spray-paint.  On half-demolished homes, people have spray-painted their addresses.  (So insurance adjusters could find their destination?)  At road intersections, crews have spray-painted references directly onto the asphalt.  26th lies perpendicular to Connor, here. 

But mostly, we have new landmarks.  Things piled on the side of the road which signal to us that we are in the right place.  Rather, the wrong place -- because if it were the right place, that pile would still be a home or restaurant or park.

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There is the intention of hope: lots are being cleared every few thousand feet.  Either the inhabitants of those ex-residences have connections or extreme senses of purpose, because most of the lots are still covered in rubble.  Although it's somehow encouraging to me -- more so than an empty, bare lot is -- to see that the debris on some streets, in front of some homes, has been helpfully separated so the trucks will know where to dump what they gather: concrete or brick; metal or wire; wood or shingles; furniture or clothes.  The organization cheers me more than the clearing.  Because...what happens when all of the 'zone' (as locals are apt to call it) is cleared?  How much emptiness can be hopeful?  And when will it be rebuilt?

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And there is nature's reality of hope: broken, stripped trees -- those that weren't completely knocked down or crushed -- are showing signs of life.  Hundreds, thousands of trees along the worst-hit areas are feathering out with tiny, green bunches of leaves.  They look lopsided and stunted; long, strong, main limbs without the balance of tiny, sprawling branches, covered only with a short crop of tufted green.  Still, they live.  They'll grow, I think.  There will be fresh, green shade under some of them next spring.

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There is hilarity: a house that is gone except for the inside hallway has been set up as if it were still filled with a family.  The owners (I presume) have arranged their dining table and chairs just so and their living room furniture is organized around a coffee table, capped only by the dome of our sky.  As if they are ready to accommodate or entertain any passersby.  After all -- one has only to step up onto the foundation from the grass to enter into that world.  If the vision of a furnished home with no walls or roof should make me sad, it doesn't.  It makes me smile.  And I like smiling.

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So this is 6 weeks later.  We're still here, buying new houses and tearing down what's left of the old; surrounded by gorgeous, magnificent volunteers; shopping at different grocery stores and taking different routes to school or work. 

We're still here.  And some days, that feels pretty major.

6 comments:

  1. Some days, I think that's all you can hope for. To still be here. And I'm thankful you're here, on the Internet, sharing your world with us.

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  2. Thanks for sharing the hope you see within the disaster. It's beautiful to me as an outsider, especially the comic relief of the furniture stagers. :-)

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  3. I'm glad that the house-less furniture makes you smile!

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  4. Thanks for the update! I've been eager for news about Joplin, and I'm glad to know the trees are still alive , the landmarks are reappearing, however slowly, and the people are rebuilding. Joplin's an inspiring city.

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  5. The furniture rearranged just so in the house with no house makes me smile, too. Because there they are seeing the bigger picture -- that they are still there to rerrange it. To rebuild. To keep going. And as you said, that's pretty major. Simply because it is.

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  6. Will you post some pictures some time? I want to see it with you.

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Hmm...And how did that make you FEEL?