Saturday, May 7, 2011

After Cleaning Up in Vilonia….

227221_1725440652082_1120375055_31510843_1388546_n The Wockenflock,Troy and Michael

After having been to Vilonia to help with the clean up, I’ve been pondering some things, what I saw, what we did.

Driving through Vilonia was devastating for me, seeing all the damage, mangled houses, pieces of houses in trees, trees in houses, massive trees uprooted, flattened trucks in yards….I just broke into tears.

Mormon Helping Hands was assigned to Church street, north and south. Well, there was nothing there that needed doing.  All the damage was east.  We broke out into smaller groups to search out the people that needed help. 

Our group ended up on a side street where a lady gladly accepted our assistance to pick up trash in her yard.   A big piece of her roof had been temporarily replaced with the blue coverings that are used until permanent repairs can be made.  I was mildly disappointed, as there really wasn’t much trash to be picked up, considering the devastation we’d seen. The big stuff was already on the curb. She said she’d called three times for help and didn’t get any. So we began picking up around the yard, looking, really, digging the small pieces of insulation out of the flower beds.  We were looking to do big things, get down and dirty.  Did no one really need any big help from a big group anymore?  Was it all done?  Bits of trash.

FEMA was making their rounds, talking to residents.


The house next door needed more help, with large pieces of twisted metal needing to be loaded onto a truck for hauling, damaged appliances to be loaded also, broken glass to be raked up, shingles set on the curbside. It took me a while to realize the open area where the man in the wheelchair was sitting used to be his garage.  It had exploded in the tornado. That explained the small bits of brick in the yard.


Mary doing….something

The next house really had lots to be done, but no one was around to ask.  Oh, the front door was gone.  That ‘splains it.

The next house was nothing left but a shell of three walls, front was completely gone, frame still there.

But were we really needed?  I mean, we were just picking up small trash, doing jobs that didn’t take long to do.

We learned from the FEMA rep about areas where people desperately needed help.  Nothing had been done at all. These places were a distance from the center of town.

We found port-a-potties along the road sides at intersections.  Oh.  (thankfully, tho, really.  We needed to use them, as did the residents and maybe the FEMA reps as they went through)

223314_1725815421451_1120375055_31511165_6504435_nI was stunned to find the people still living here.

We ended up at a trailer home on what used to be a lovely piece of property.  A tree had fallen clean through one end of the house.  That tree had been cut up, but there was really so much more to be done. 

The owner accepted the help of our group, moving metal and wood to the curb.  Moving huge pieces of twisted metal that used to be his porch roof.  Move 2 huge pieces of twisted metal that used to be his carport. 


In between trips of carrying things off, he told his story. I listened, when I was around, slightly impatient, wanting to ask what he needed us to take next, but when my brain kicked in, he just needed us to listen to his story.  Trees were down, one on his now ruined swimming pool.  The Gazebo was twisted around the root ball of the tree that was on the pool.


The man was reluctant to have us move some things because the ground was wet and didn’t want to send us out into the mud.  “Well,” I said, “ We did bring our 4-wheel drive boots, so we don’t mind.”

Another part of our group showed up with chain saws, so we cut the fallen trees in the immediate yard and carried off, or stacked usable firewood.  This part of our day was most rewarding. We were really sinking ourselves into this big job. Lots to do and lots of people to do it.  We ranged in ages from 8-70.


We were hot, we were sunburned, we were dragging branches off.  Water, need water.


Then, I began to think about the woman who complained about having called 3 times for help when it was just a little bit of trash in her yard. What a little job.  Really.  Hardly worth calling for help 3 times for when there were so many big jobs needing to be done.  Hardly worth accepting help for when the job was really done.

But later, I saw the big picture. Everything I’d seen on her street came together.  When the tornados lifted, when it was safe to come out, this woman would have noticed a strange emptiness across the street.  Two houses right across the street from her were gone.  Just gone.  Only the foundations were left.  And stuff in the yard.  A piece of her roof was gone. Houses just gone across the street. Her neighbor’s garage was gone, extensive damage the next house down.  Front door gone. Those two houses across the street just gone.The front of the house on the next.  Everyone’s missing rooftops were in the trees and field behind them.  What is this book in the yard?   The tittle, “We Survived.”

Yeah, she needed help, all right.  Two houses across the street were gone. After what she’d been through, she needed to know someone cared to help, even if it was just to pick up a little trash and tidy up what was left of the flower beds. People out there cared about her changed world.  We did a big thing there.

223314_1725814301423_1120375055_31511157_5446570_n our whole group

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