April 27, 2011, began like any other day. I had no idea that by day’s end, 62 tornadoes would rip through my home state of Alabama. That afternoon, I watched the tornado form about a mile down the road from my house from my back porch. I had no idea what I was looking at. That conflagration of clouds that I watched would form an F5 tornado and sweep clean parts of Ider, Alabama.
The last half of that day felt like a bombing raid. The tornado sirens blared practically all day and night. I told my wife to get in the closet with the kids. I turned on my TV for an update, and the weather man yelled, “If you are in Albertville, AL, seek shelter NOW!!!” My power went out that instant, and my house vibrated, like the foundation was rapidly moving back and forth. I dropped the remote and fled to the closet. My house was fine, but the mobile home park three blocks away looked like someone had put it in an egg beater. By the hand of Providence, the tornado lifted off the ground and sailed over my house. Others were not so fortunate.
This morning, as the images of Moore, Oklahoma flood the television and internet, I am reminded of Ider, Birmingham, Arab, and Tuscaloosa. The next morning, we all knew the destruction was bad, we just had no idea how bad. We now know that 243 people lost their lives on that April day. Pictures cannot describe the awe and terror that follows the aftermath of a storm like that. As I read about the cold rain that moved in after the tornado in Moore, I thought of those people, picking through the rubble of their homes in the wet chill. They are looking for family pictures. They are looking for clothes. Anything at all. Anything that they can salvage from their lives. There is nothing else to do.
Schools were destroyed. Children died. People are still being pulled out the rubble. This is a good time to save your explanations for only those who ask them of you. Brilliant theological truths during times like these will often be responded to by someone pointing out the obvious. “Yeah, God just blew up my house. My neighbor’s kids are in the ICU. My other neighbor is missing. Thanks for the reminder.”
I am praying for those in Oklahoma who are now living through this horror. I am once again learning the fear of the Lord as I see the fragility of our lives. May the Lord God have mercy on all those families this morning.