On May 25, a few days after the tornado devastated Joplin, Missouri, another set of tornados passed by my house in eastern Missouri. The storms moved north, touching down briefly in a few places. No one was killed, but where tornados touched down, they caused significant damage. One of the places hard hit was Dhammasukha Meditation Center in Annapolis, Missouri. I know the residents there (who are also FundRaiser users) and so I was happy to pack up my chain saw and go help them clean up last weekend.
Dhammasukha Center has two sections of buildings. The upper section was untouched by the tornado, but in the lower section nearly every building was destroyed. The only structures left untouched were the two with people in them, and even these had the shingles stripped from the roof. One of the women was sucked out of her door and thrown onto the porch of the neighboring building. There, she was able to grab a hold of the front door by her fingers and drag herself in. She and another woman hunkered down in a corner and rode the storm out, while trees fell on all sides and the other buildings were destroyed. Although the noise must have been intense, they both said they had the sense of absolute stillness and peace.
By the time I arrived, most of the heavy trees had been cut and cleared away, leaving only the tree tops. I spent my time cutting up the tree tops and untangling them from twisted tin, the propane tank, tangled electric lines, and the broken buildings. While I was cutting, other volunteers and residents cleaned up broken glass, twisted tin, broken boards from the other buildings and other debris. They sorted through the wet and damaged goods that had been sucked out of their dwellings, looking to see what could be salvaged.
One of the buildings hit was their office, which had been actually rolled onto its side. Skillful work with a fork lift had put the building back on its feet, but everything had been either sucked out or was in chaos and drenched with rain. The hard drive had been sucked out of the computer along with all the years worth of work that was on the drive. The back up was stored in the same office, and had disappeared as well.
I worked Saturday and Sunday, and while I was there, my mind was on the job. It wasn’t until after I got home that the impact of what I had seen began to hit. This impact is difficult to put into words, some combination of the awareness of death, and our vulnerability, as well as how precious it is to be able to help when disaster strikes.