Written Wednesday, April 20, 2011
Saturday afternoon a tornado ripped through Raleigh and other parts of North Carolina. I found out around 8pm that evening, right before going to watch a movie with the other volunteers. I called my sister in Raleigh to make sure they were okay, and she got back in touch with me a few hours later. I thank God that my family and friends were spared. More than 20 people died across my home state from the tornadoes, including some people in the apartment complex where I just moved from in February.
It wasn’t until Monday, however, that I really got the chance to process everything about the storm. I went online and saw photos and videos of the damage. It looked really devastating. It was so bad that Raleigh’s Shaw University—the first historically black college/university (HBCU) in America—has had to cancel classes for the remainder of the spring semester because of damage, and students who were in dorms are now in shelters. Apparently the path of one of the tornadoes was right down the street I lived off of. Seeing the pictures and video and hearing all the accounts elicited something that I’ve never experienced before, and never thought I would: irrational guilt. A big part of me felt like I needed to be home, doing something, anything; if nothing else, just being there. Maybe because despite being connected to Ayden, Fountain, Durham and kind of Greenville, Raleigh is the only place that I really call “home” in North Carolina for a number of reasons. I lived there for nearly 10 years (typing that out makes me feel old), but it wasn’t until after I left that my “home” experienced this sort of disaster…and I wasn’t there. “What am I doing here?” I thought to myself. In my head I had this thought that when I went home to visit, there would be a new and major facet to the story that I wouldn’t be able to identify with, and I’d feel somewhat of a distinct disconnect. And that things would be particularly unfamiliar to me for that reason. And that maybe had I been there, reconnecting with what was once my life would be much more seamless (I know, that’s kind of a paradox). I had the thought that maybe if I were home now, I would know for sure that things were progressing, and I’d know for sure that the people that I cared about were safe and without need. I had a deep sense of regret that there was absolutely nothing that I could do to tangibly aid in any way.
So after coming to grips with that (and crying a little) and praying, I came to realize that the only thing that I could do was pray for home, and ultimately trust God. So I did my part by praying that God would send strength and comfort to those who were devastated and to those who’d lost loved ones in the storm. I prayed that the body of Christ would mobilize to demonstrate the heart and the hands and feet of our loving God. I prayed that people—believers and nonbelievers—would come to discover that God was indeed present, even though the rubble and debris. Right now, that’s the most and the least I can do.