Monday, October 28, 2013
Five months after the deadly tornado that tore through my city leaving a wake of destruction in its path, houses are popping up all over. Businesses have rebuilt, street signs are repaired and the debris is cleaned up. People have healed.
My mom and I were running errands by our house yesterday and just decided to stop by the elementary school (Plaza Towers) where 7 young kids were killed when the tornado leveled their school. We've been by here a few times to check for progress or visit the small memorial on site.
Yesterday was the most encouraging because so many houses are being re-built and most of the tragic destruction is removed. It almost looks like a normal new neighborhood, save for a few seemingly abandoned houses that still look like a warzone. It felt good to see that. Even the school has been completely cleaned up and the beginnings of construction are underway to replace it.
But on the far side of the school, the marquee still stands. It is a mangled up piece of metal, clearly demonstrating the devastating effects of the storm. On it reads, Awards Assembly May 20th. It's as if that sign is a permanent fixture frozen on that terrible day. Nearby are 7 crosses symbolizing the innocent babies lost here. They are wooden and beautiful and eerie. They shouldn't have to be here.
And as we were slowly pulling by, a young man in a truck pulled up and waved politely at us. He was in a work truck and I assumed he was there on business. Until he got out of his truck and walked purposefully towards the roped off makeshift memorial.
He crawled into the cordoned off area and before I realized what was happening, he reached out and placed his hands lovingly and desperately onto the 3rd cross. The grief was PALPABLE. It radiated through the air and seemed to stop all time.
I froze in the car, goosebumps all over, beginning to realize what I'd just witnessed. A father's loss. Still just as fresh and raw five months later. Completely unaffected by the positive changes and growth occurring all around him. Simply a parent who had suffered the unthinkable loss of a child.
It reverberated throughout my entire soul the rest of the day and still affects me this morning. I wanted to turn around and embrace him. Tell him that others still remember too. Make him feel not so alone.
Grief is still very much here. We don't have as many physical reminders anymore, but the wounds are far from healed. My heart goes out to those that will be spending their first holidays without these kids soon.