Friday, May 13, 2011

After the Storm

When a devastating tornado swept through Raleigh on April 16, the Kerr Family YMCA was there to help. Under the leadership of staff member Shannan Feldbusch, the Y partnered with the Red Cross to provide transportation for storm victims living in a temporary shelter at Heritage High School in Wake Forest.

Using YMCA buses and personal vehicles, Kerr Y staff drove victims to their jobs, to meet FEMA inspectors and to doctor’s appointments all over the Triangle. This is just one way the Y answered the call to help. Read Shannan’s account.

I was privileged to be able spend several days with the tornado ravaged residents of Stony Brook Mobile Home park. They were so appreciative of any help. Very simply, they felt helpless. 
Common sight along our route

So many of them said how blessed they were to come out of this storm with their whole family. Some residents in Stony Brook were not so lucky.  

I arrived at the school at 6 a.m. and all the men were ready to go. They were up at the crack of dawn ready to work, even willing to miss breakfast provided by the Red Cross. Despite all the damage, they were determined to get to work on time.

As I took one gentleman to Brentwood Road and Capital Blvd. to get his car, we were amazed at the damage. Some roads were closed. The open roads were filled with trees. Trees on homes, trees on cars. Trees everywhere.

The second man worked for a landscaping company on Aviation Parkway in Morrisville. When the storm hit, he grabbed his wife, his seven-year-old daughter and the rest of the family. They huddled in the bathroom at the middle of his mobile home.

He says the whole house was shaking and it was hard to breathe. They couldn’t see anything because it was pitch black. He said it seemed like forever from the start until the end. In reality, it probably lasted 15 minutes. Later, his wife went to the hospital because her chest was hurting.

More devastation
The third gentleman I spent the most time with is a leukemia survivor. Before he was diagnosed, he was a superintendent of a construction crew that built many familiar structures in Raleigh. He was part of the crew that built Wal Mart and Lowes on Highway 64.
Three years ago, he was diagnosed with leukemia. He finished all his treatments. Thanks to a bone marrow transplant, he's now in remission.

He takes about 30 pills each day. He lost all of them in the tornado. He is very weak from his treatments, but somehow found the strength to hold onto the people he loves. His neighbors across the street lost two children and their mom. When the storm passed, those children were found in a tree. When he closes his eyes, those images and memories haunt him. 

All that is left

Two months ago, he tried to insure his home. The insurance company said it was just too old. He figures he lost everything.

Trees smashed the two cars his family owns. His wife can’t go to work because the windshield is gone and mirrors are cracked.

What a huge blow. She provides the only income in their family.

Even though the family lost so much, he says he's blessed.

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