…to the rescue workers who helped us in the aftermath of the ice storm. Six months later, some of you are still here and still helping us rebuild. I spoke this morning with a man from Mississippi who was helping to repair a length of rail track here, and he made me smile. It’s amazing how selfless people can be in dark times.
I get sad, sometimes, walking about and seeing the evidence of the storm. There are still trees down and still broken fences along some of the farms. My guess is people in the rural areas can’t afford the repairs. Damaged monuments in several local cemeteries are being demolished and cleared away now that the ground is dry. I can’t imagine how family members must feel knowing that their loved ones’ headstones were destroyed, many during the storm itself. So many trees fell at one local walking park that the trail had to be closed, and every stone bench along the walking trail aside our local hospital was destroyed. Driving through the town and into the rural areas, I see how deeply our area was affected, and it frightens me to look back on what caused all the damage. People lost houses, cars, family pets, and loved ones. Our town lost some of its major landmarks, and the individual property damage was unbelievable.
Still, signs of hope are everywhere as well. I still see neighbours helping neighbours with repairs to houses and outbuildings. This area is *incredibly* economically-depressed, and many people have just saved enough money to complete repair work. One of the strangest sights I see are branches of trees that are blooming, even though they are barely attached to tree trunks. Not far from the patch of rail track where I saw the rescue worker today, some volunteers were putting up a newly-painted sign at a small city garden that they had just replanted. We may be working on rebuilding for quite some time, and our towns will never look exactly as they did before, but our communities and those who helped us have shown tremendous strength and spirit. To those of you who wrote this off as ‘that little storm’ come visit our communities, see the damage, and watch our rebuilding efforts. I think you’ll be surprised both at the scope of the storm and the effort we’ve put in to recovery.
So thank you to the rescue workers and utility crews from Mississippi, Alabama, and Georgia (and any others I didn’t know of). Thank you to the members of the National Guard who went door-to-door to check on people trapped in their homes. Thanks to the people who operated the shelters, sometimes filled with hundreds of displaced families and stocked with almost no supplies, and to the amateur radio operators who provided communication when all other sources were down. Many thanks, as well, to the charities who stepped in to help– the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR), the Salvation Army, Red Cross, Catholic Charities, Dare to Care Food Bank, Christian Appalachian Project Disaster Response, Metro Louisville United Way, Kentucky Voluntary Agencies Active in Disaster, and the Tri-State County Animal Response Team, among others. We were fortunate to have so many caring individuals and organisations working with us that I can’t write an exhaustive list! Words are inadequate, but as someone who went through the storm, I wanted to take time to offer my sincere appreciation for helping us during the storm and continuing on as we move forward with our recovery work.