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Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Of Wreckage and Miracles

Recently, I have learned that "Do not be afraid" is on of the most commonly used sentences in the Bible.  And that reminded me of a picture I took a long time ago.  Bear with me, this is a little bit of a story, but when you see the picture, you might think it is worth it.

Jeremiah and I were in AmeriCorps in 2003 and 2004 and as part of our training, we were certified in disaster relief with the American Red Cross.  We were both deployed several times and had a lot of experience, so in 2005 after Hurricane Katrina hit, I took a 3 week leave of absence from my job and headed south with the St. Paul chapter of the Red Cross.  Part of the three weeks that I was there was spent on an Emergency Response Vehicle delivering hot food and water to people who couldn't get out of their houses or neighborhoods for a variety of reasons.  No one wanted me to go out on the ERV because of my age-they all thought I would be to young and under prepared for the disaster and devastation and stench.

Being who I am, I went anyway.  It was a life changing experience and I will never forget what I saw on those excursions in Ocean Springs, MS.  One man, Dale, wandered through the back woods looking for the wife that was separated from him during the storm, for weeks.  The fire department found her body in a tree and was able to stop his search.  He only had the flip flops he was wearing, cut off shorts and a ragged t-shirt.  As awful as it was to finally know his wife had passed from him, it was an act of mercy be able to stop his search.  We met an 80 year old woman who survived the storm by floating through the turbulent waters on a wooden door until she bumped into a tree.  She stayed there until she was finally rescued.  The day we brought food to her and her son, she was going to the wreckage that was her house to find one thing that was desperately important to her...the sewing machine her mom handed down to her 60 years ago.

Then we got to the place we had heard stories about.  The house next door would eventually be featured on Extreme Home Makeover and I would watch it on ABC and recognize all of the features of the landscape and the wreckage.  But at the address that we had heard about, there was barely anything left.  We stopped to take a break and found the tree in this picture.  It had played a huge part saving the wealthy stubborn family that survived the storm.

I don't remember their last names, but they had two kids.  They saw the news of the coming storm and knew the predictions but they wouldn't leave their house.  They just didn't want to.  So they prepared and boarded up windows and got food and hunkered down.  When the storm finally hit the way it was predicted, it was to late for the family to leave.  When they panicked and decided to leave, it was too late.  The floorboards of their car were under water.  The first floor of their house quickly flooded and they rushed to the second floor and then had to climb onto the roof to avoid the rising, angry water.

As the water rose, the family made it into the tree, holding each other and branches.  The dad was bracing the branches with his hands and feet-his bare feet on the rough bark of the tree, so his family could have a better chance of surviving.  As a huge, tsunami sized wave rushed towards them, a tree larger then the one they were holding onto fell in front of them and split the wave around them.  When the debris that broke windows and walls, wrapped fabric and plastic around and around and around anything in its path, this sheet of plastic was miraculously wrapped protectively around the family's tree, shielding them the debris that was so deadly.

They stayed in the tree for the entire hurricane.  

And when the hurricane finally stopped, they opened their eyes and looked around and saw each other, all four of them, protected in their tree.

When the water started to recede and the shock finally wore away, they wondered how they would get out of that big tall tree.

Then a completely whole unbroken ladder floated by and they used it to climb down to the ground and wait for help.  With their feet safely on the ground.

I don't know if they were believers, but they must have been after that.

Here is the photo I took of the tree.

Sorry for the long story.  But sometimes it's nice to remember the Miracles and how God provides.

1 comment:

LIFE in POTS said...

So many memories of such mixed emotions...that year will forever be one of the best, most rewarding, hardest, hurtful years of my life. Thanks for remembering the miracles that Katrina provided and not just the horror.