“Evermore in the world is this marvelous balance of beauty and disgust, magnificence and rats.”
Ralph Waldo Emerson
My week started with happy announcements and plans for celebrations. Our dear friends Clare Mallory and Meagan O’Nan announced that they will be married this month. This news made me more excited than when planning my own wedding. We were also thrilled to learn that Amanda and Casey Barefield are expecting twins (!) in late August. So many joyful revelations gave me an emotional high that could never be produced by any sort of drug. All this, while preparing for the event celebrating the release of my second book, “Witch Ball,” created in me the sense that all was right with the world.
I suppose I deserved a bit of a reality check. Sir Isaac Newton’s Third Law of Motion jumped up and slapped me in the face. The popular version, as explained by Steven Holzner (“Physics I For Dummies,” second edition), is “For every action, there’s an equal and opposite reaction.”
Well, in my world it manifested as “For every thrilling emotion is a let-down so dramatic that I almost crash onto the floor.” (If we had a basement, then I would have gone even further down.)
Monday, the tornado sirens with their banshee wails pierced our hearts with the fear than comes from the knowledge of nature’s power. As long as the television was working we watched the maps with wide, twitching lines of reds and greens and yellows that symbolize the angry storms.
Suddenly, all local stations went blank. My friend, Jyl, phoned and said, “Go into your safe place — now!”
Chris and I huddled in the bathroom with our three pets and the phone. Later, Jyl called to give us the “all clear” message.
Thunder continued to rattle the walls and windows for hours. My two doggie-daughters trembled and panted, hiding under furniture. Nothing could comfort them. Finally, the storms moved east, and the house became still.
We were lucky. So many others were not. Parts of Mississippi were devastated. Our neighbors in nearby states also suffered huge damage. (As I write this, the final accounts of loss of life are incomplete.)
It is so hard to look at photos of destruction. No matter that we do not personally know the victims. Their suffering is infectious. It is crushing, because we are all connected.
Every sort of disaster leaves its ugly wake. Floods, hurricanes, earthquakes — all are horrible. But tornadoes may be the worst. They are unexpected and swift, an abrupt attack. Gone in seconds, they leave the accruement of precious lives in splinters.
There is nothing left to do but to clear the debris and try to begin again. We send prayers and donations to those who were hurt, secretly grateful that this time the tragedy was not ours.
People like to say that we are not sent more than we can endure. I do not agree. Sometimes we crumble, unable to continue. At these times we can take some small comfort in the news of happy marriage plans and the births of new babies, even if they are not our own, because, as I said before, we are all connected.
Adele Elliott, a New Orleans native, moved to Columbus after Hurricane Katrina.