I don’t know what to say or how to process them yet.
My mind is still swirling with all the information, activities, locally earth-shaking, as well as major regional events that have happened in such a short period of time. I am talking, of course, about the historic storms and tornadoes that hit our area on Wednesday, April 27.
And the only thought that I can clearly see and focus on is the depth of the compassion and community and caring I have seen exhibited by the residents of this immediate area.
I want to personally thank you, one and all, for your help and concern and comments and helpful answers to your fellow residents.
What am I talking about?
Well, I need to go back about 10 days ago when our area was hit by the worst storms, as I have heard reported, to hit our Tennessee Valley area ever! And the worst to hit the U.S. since 1935.
You see, I am usually the one at the paper that posts and blogs and e-blasts through Facebook.
I put a couple of the Banner’s stories from our website on every day, plus let fans know what’s in today’s paper.
But the deluge of posts starting on April 27, the day of the storm, through Thursday, Friday and Saturday, mostly was an experience I will never forget because I tried to answer each and every one of the questions and/or concerns about family members and our situation down here.
Now keep in mind, this was a collaborative effort by the rest of the crew here at the paper as well — but mainly the credit goes to you folks out there, the Banner’s faithful fans.
For example, one Facebook fan of the Banner asked if anyone could give an update on the power situation in the Falcon/Sheila Drive area. Others asked about details of the curfew. Others asked about specific streets or areas — Bates, Durkee, APD 40, Freewill and McDonald areas, Springplace Road, Minnis Road, Park View Elementary, etc. Others asked about where they could go to help and volunteer, and where and what they could donate, among other things.
Warnings were posted on what areas to stay away from.
Notifications were made about press conferences and what channels or radio stations’ broadcasts by the local sheriff, for example, could be heard.
Many organizations and churches posted how folks could help, where people can get help and what help they could give. People offered their services of a four-wheel-drive truck. Some offered their homes for people without a place to stay.
Others offered prayers and reminded folks that the entire community was there for them during these terrible times.
Others posted warnings, advice on information from emergency services about how many tornadoes actually touched down and, sadly, a running record — in real time — on the number of deaths, the areas of devastation and the roads that were closed.
Some also posted photos.
Others wrote with great concern and consternation from hundreds of miles away, such as in New Jersey and Wisconsin, trying to find out about loved ones in the area they couldn’t reach by phone. On Facebook, they asked about specific blocks on Ocoee and what the latest news was. Most of the phone service or cellphone signals were down, if you remember. One posting or another tried to calm their concerns and ease their minds by reporting if that area had been hit, or who to call to help check on the family, or that the phones were down in many places around town.
Information and phone numbers for the area’s American Red Cross or other community service organizations were posted.
Some were blogging from the library.
Others asked where the power was out and any word on how long it would be before it was restored.
Was there damage at Lee University? At CSCC?
Announcements were made that volunteers could meet at 4 p.m. at Park View Elementary.
Does anyone need blood donations and where can folks go to give blood?
The Blue Springs School is unusable, another posted. Houses in the valley were now just piles of rubble.
A friend posted her friend lost her house. She is trying to raise money to donate.
Reports were non-stop, coming in fast and furious. It was a jolt to the system almost as great as the thunderstorms and tornadoes themselves.
The paper was trying to report through Facebook also the latest news as we knew it — EF-4 tornado confirmed, five to seven tornadoes touched down with more than 170 mph winds and a 45-mile-long path of destruction over one-half mile wide generating near Ringgold, Ga.
Every blog, every post, every question kept the feeling alive in me that you were out there, that you were OK, that everything was going to be all right.
I felt as if I was able to actually be a helpful part of the events instead of just reporting on what was going on.
I felt as if I was truly a part of a community, a family — neighbor helping neighbor. Just knowing there was someone out there — “listening” — was a major comfort and help.
And one thing you all have to realize is — it was all you!
And I want to thank each and every one of you — those who asked questions, those who answered them, those who wrote of news as they knew it and those who offered help.
But, I also have a request. I also would love to hear from all of you again. I want to find out if your relatives are OK. If and when you ever reached them by phone. Did you contact the Red Cross or the Baptist Church? How are you managing to rebuild, restore your lives?
Are you OK?