Journal-Times (Grayson, KY)

Wednesday's Post

March 14, 2012

You have to see it to believe it

March 14, 2012 —     Ground-level photographs don’t do it justice. Aerial photographs show some of the scope but not completely. Personal accounts come up lacking because mere words fall short.

    To begin to understand the utter destructive force of an EF-3 tornado, you have to see the aftermath up close and personal.

    It’s difficult to wrap your mind around the idea of a well-built, frame home being turned into a pile of twisted, broken lumber in a matter of seconds.

    No one can explain why a two-story brick home in the epicenter of the storm sustains only cosmetic damage while an identical structure next door is ripped asunder.

    The average car weighs a ton yet so many were tossed about like plastic toys in the hands of a angry giant, piled on top of each other and thrown into structures and trees.

    The will to live surely must be our strongest human instinct.

    Why else could a half dozen men run out of a pool hall, see the funnel cloud approaching and then run right back into the building and dive under pool tables? And live to tell the tale?

    A widower takes refuge in the basement of his home, only to be pulled from beneath the rubble minutes later, dazed and shaken but unhurt.

    As his eyes refocus, he sees that his nearby business has been torn apart by the savage winds and flying debris.

    Small groups huddle in the clogged streets, clutching family members and rejoicing that they somehow lived through the most horrific event imaginable.

    Reality sinks in slowly as they climb aboard school buses to ride to a shelter, wearing the only clothes they own.

    The scene is surreal as police and National Guard soldiers stand guard in the darkness at shattered drugstores and smashed bank buildings, keeping away the vilest of criminals who would take advantage of a disaster. 

    In the midst of unbelievable tragedy, grief is compounded by the fear that heartless criminals will take the scattered, treasured personal possessions.

    But the violent storm has taken more than homes and businesses.

    A farmer, his wife and disabled mother died when their mobile home disintegrated. A critically injured son fights for life in a hospital.

    An elderly man died when his rural home collapsed. A retired couple tried to outrun the storm to a nearby cellar. They didn’t make it.

    No, this catastrophe didn’t happen in the Midwest. It happened right here…in these hills we once thought protected us from nature’s wrath.

    Take it from me, you have to see it to believe it.

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