Disaster Deployment Days 14 + 15
It has been interesting to see and hear people in different stages of the grieving process two weeks after it began. It is hard to comprehend the stress behind the tired eyes of a mother whose child remains in intensive care, especially compared to the joyous celebration in other families whose loved ones have made strides in recovery. It is impossible for me to understand the impact of burying two grandchildren, knowing their mother is in the ICU. Or the farewell to the dreams and potential of a college student only weeks from graduation. Likewise, the thought of losing your elderly mother unexpectedly and losing any and all previous plans into the winds of a tornado, spreading important documents hundreds of miles away. One thing is certain, and that is the amazing ability of these people to see beyond the immediate (and likely long-term) crisis, to verbalize their emotions to us in sharing their stories, and to continue their existence step by step. I feel a deep sense of gratitude to these families for trusting us, and allowing us to step into their lives for a very short time.
Yesterday we visited a family at their home which changed our driving route and showed us the utter devastation in parts of Tuscaloosa I had previously not seen. Being in the location and looking at the destroyed homes, personal belongings strewn about, and the number of people out searching for any last pieces of their memories brought my experience here full circle. I saw the exact areas where my clients' family members were killed and injured, where they had dug through rubble to find their people, and where the lives they had built were in some sense laid to rest.
I am saddened by the stories I am told, but I am lucky to be here doing this work and feel good about it. It is important for me to remember my goal is to share empathy with these people, and to provide the best casework, resources and support as possible. I am here five more days and I plan to reach as many clients as possible before saying goodbye to the state of Alabama.
This is not my disaster. I am lucky (or as they say here, blessed).