Through a chance and random conversation, I ended up with a volunteer crew trying to help several local families clean up and sort the the ruins of their homes. As the damage assessment throughout the Bradley County continues, the need for helping hands grows. As of this afternoon, I am now a “spontaneous” volunteer for the Red Cross (and hope to become a regular volunteer in the near future). I am scheduled to help in whatever way they may need me over the next few weeks.
I also want to make it clear that while I did have my camera with me, I was reluctant to even take it out of my bag in respect for the privacy of the families we were working with. However, after some time together, several of the families almost encouraged us to use cameras; they seemed to want to “document” the scene, saying it was “important for other people to see” what had taken place. And so, when I had moments, I shot as respectfully as I could.
While men with chainsaws and BobCats worked to clear the heavy debris and tree limbs, several other women and I helped clean up the cuttings and helped a few homeowners sort through the rubble to reclaim items that could be salvaged. I have to confess that it was heartbreaking at times – seeing cherished pieces (and simply ordinary pieces) of a family’s like strewn about like an afterthought.
On one property, I met an elderly woman who was combing through the debris at her son’s house – which had been completely demolished. She seemed to need someone to listen to her – she talked and told me so many details of what had happened, what her son’s house had been like, where they had been when the storm struck. How a basement didn’t help. And the terrible aftermath. It was as if she needed to verbalize the experience, and I can only hope that I helped her in a small way by being there to quietly listen.
One of the most difficult moments of the day for me was finding 3 small dogs hiding in the ruins of a demolished home. One of the neighbors told me that the woman who lived there and owned the dogs had been injured and had been taken to the hospital. It’s unclear whether or not she had any family to come and retrieve and care for the dogs. So I went and got some dog food and bowls of water, and the neighbor and I worked on making sure they would be cared for until they can be reunited with their owner. (The Red Cross is also working on pet rescue in the area.)
As of today, the county schools will be closed through May 6th. Two of the elementary schools sustained significant damage and will not reopen before the end of the school year.
My son’s high school will be opening their doors next week to serve meals and allow residents and out-of-area volunteers to use the showers. My son, and many of his fellow students will be volunteering to help through efforts coordinated by the school.
As I write this, so many thoughts are swirling through my mind. I haven’t seen a moment of the whole Royal Wedding – and I don’t care. I apologize for not replying/responding to friends who commented on the previous post – I thank you for your concern. I don’t think I will be taking or posting any more photographs of the damage – it almost makes my eyes ache with sadness to shoot these scenes. (I would never cut it as a photojournalist, apparently).
I also know that there are other areas of the Southeast, from AL to GA, and even within Bradley County, that have suffered far more than the destruction I’ve seen in a few small areas here. My heart aches for all of them, and I hope that anyone who reads this can reach out – to volunteer, or donate supplies or funds to relief agencies. Please help in whatever way you can.
These are the last photos … from today’s efforts. (You are in my prayers tonight, Mrs. Johnson).
Last week it was the car accident that left us a little shaken. This week … the weather has made the car accident look almost trivial.
Yesterday was the day of disaster, weather-wise. Starting at 8am and lasting all the way until midnight, we were one of the areas hard hit by the rolling wave of bad weather that hit the Southeast. Nearly every hour we rode through thunderstorms, high winds, hail, torrential rain and even several tornados – it didn’t seem to want to stop. I’d never experienced anything as continuous and non-stop, weather-wise.
At our house, we can once again count our blessings, as we only have one large tree down and a few missing roof shingles. Many of our nearby neighbors were not so lucky. As of this morning, there were at least 9 deaths in our county alone, and 15 in Tennessee. Surrounding areas, including north Georgia suffered even more catastrophic damage to homes and buildings.
I took a ride today several roads close to home, and was shocked at the destruction I saw. People are outside milling around, almost shell-shocked. The southern end of our road was still closed as crews worked to clear trees and power lines. Many are still without power; fortunately ours returned to us late last night.
Schools have been cancelled until Monday. Prom has been postponed until … ? There is so much “cleaning up” to do almost everywhere … I finally stopped taking pictures of huge downed trees, because there were just too many of them.
One of the strangest experiences while riding around was finding random pieces of peoples’ lives strewn along the road – in places far removed from where the actual destruction took place. A piece of someones kitchen countertop lying on the edge of the road, clothing and carpeting flung against a farm fence. Pieces of metal roofs and siding hanging from utility lines – with no idea where they came from.
I’ve inserted a slide show of some of the scenes from yesterday’s sky, to the nearby damage I saw today around our immediate area. I haven’t even ventured into town, or into other areas of the county. Hoping my local friends are all safe, and my prayers go out to the families who have lost loved ones and suffered devastating damage. Godspeed.
Let me begin by saying: nobody was seriously injured – nor were there any bicycles involved.
Yesterday afternoon I had one of those moments that every parent dreads beyond description – getting a phone call that your child was in an car accident. My youngest son was on his way to tennis practice after school and was stopped behind a van for a driver making a left-hand turn – and moments later he was rear-ended by a driver who admitted to being “temporarily distracted”/momentarily not paying close enough attention. (I won’t even start on my abhorrence over cell-phones use in cars, texting, etc. – even though we don’t know if this was a contributing factor in this accident).
While I understand that accidents happen, and we are more than willing to forgive and forget, I hope that this will serve as a reminder to both the driver and to my teenage son (who is in that high-risk group, even though he was not at fault here): distracted driving is completely unsafe and irresponsible, and the outcome could have been much, much worse. Sad business all around.
Grant is fine, a little bruised and shaken, but we are SO grateful that the outcome was as good as it was. I can always replace a car … had anything happened to my son, well, I can’t even think about it.
One thing that left me fairly shocked (although the attending police didn’t seem to find it unusual for some reason), was that even though the dash basically popped out, or was pushed out by the impact, the driver’s airbag didn’t deploy. I am a bit mystified. Can someone explain? I may be asking the folks at Honda about this.
As for bikes and cycling … well, I guess this is one way for me to be car-free for a while. Mark will be driving my car, while Grant drives our other car. Distances, along with Grant’s before- and after-school activities and Mark’s business travel make it necessary for them to use cars, while I can fairly easily get by on two wheels. Good thing.
Meanwhile – don’t drink, text, use a phone, apply make-up, shave, read, or do anything else when you’re behind the wheel. Please. Please.
(You can thank me now – despite the initial scare, this is a 100% goat-less post). 😉
There has been a lot of rambling around lately … because I am obviously honing my non-productivity skills. And because the weather is beautiful, and I’d rather be out on my bike goofing off, rather than, well … cleaning out the attic or mowing grass.
I’ve been drawn to long rides on the Xtracycle lately. As someone once perfectly described – it’s not the lycra-clad fast and furious stuff (as if I ever do that), but more of a “long, slow boogie”. Typical me. Carry a picnic lunch, stop and talk to cows, linger in the fresh green of spring.
So … a few of the sights of recent days, because there’s not much more to be said.
There are typically a handful of days with each season that are absolutely perfect for cycling. The weather is ideal, the landscape leaves you speechless – whether it be the height of color in the fall, a pristine day of snow, or the sweetness of spring in bloom. This week, we’ve had a healthy dose of springtime splendor.
From the dogwoods to the lilacs to the tumbling wysteria, it’s been delight to the senses. (And, admittedly, very frustrating to be without my camera … which, hopefully, will be back in my hands and repaired within the next week).
Yesterday as I was out riding and wandering the roads through green fields and blooming trees, I guess my mind was wandering as well. It’s not that I feel a need for a new “project” like #330daysofbiking, but simply considering some cycling fun that I want to try and plan for the months ahead.
And during the first few miles of my ride – when the day is so beautiful and the legs are just warming up, feeling fresh and strong – I start imagining a few crazy ideas … like how about a dawn-to-dusk ride?
Being the good parent that I am (heh-heh!), I am considering how to recruit a couple of the boys, along with my dear husband, to hop on bikes some morning just before sunrise, and pedal around for an entire day – yes, the entire day – right through to sunset. Not continuously, and certainly not hundreds of miles or anything too nuts, but stopping for meals, maybe a nap, a little sight-seeing on the side – but just spending the entire day tooling around (and probably fairly leisurely) on bikes. Yeah … #dawntodusk, if I was inclined to start another (stupid) hashtag.
So whadya say, guys? 😉
And then of course, as I continue riding for another two hours and my wandering mind begins to return and focus on my tiring legs and the sunburn I’m beginning to feel on the backs of my arms, I think: dawn-till-dusk?!! Whose half-baked idea was that anyway?!
We’ll see. The idea hasn’t yet left my head … I will just wait to see what the boys have to say (envisioning the rolling of eyes, and a great deal of head-shaking). 😉
So what do you do the day after #330daysofbiking? C’mon … did you really think there was any other option? 😉
Two of the boys were home for a brief weekend visit, with the local Battle of the Bands being the driver. The boys’ band The Night Shines took the win this year (YAY!) – and they have a free download of their song Forest Fire on their bandcamp site, for anyone interested).
Ross and I had a perfect day to take a great ride up to and along the river. After all of the grey and rain of the past days, it felt so good to have the sun shining.
While I don’t intend to keep a running tally of how many days I ride over the next year or so, I may just keep a personal log of the days I don’t – which hopefully will be kept to a bare minimum.
The perfect cycling life lesson appeared in my friend Jim’s (@bikerly) blog today; it can’t be said any better than this:
It began one year ago – #30daysofbiking. And then turned into #330daysofbiking; my goal to ride 330 of 365 days. Today I managed to cross the finish line. Day 330. It actually took me 367 days to reach the benchmark; I missed a few more “buffer” days for out-of-town travel than I had anticipated … but it is what it is, and close enough for me.
While I would have liked to celebrate this day with some exceptional or special ride, it was really just a day like many of the others … through the local landscape, me, my bike and a few cows. As I was riding and thinking about this entire “project”, I realized it was the most appropriate way to reach the finish line. Just another day, just another ride. From the beginning, it wasn’t about epic mileage, conditioning thresholds or anything cycle-spectacular. It was just about being out on a bike. Every. Every. Day. (Or as close to every day as was humanly possible.)
I am sure that many, if not most other people would’ve kept more detailed statistics about a project like this – and in hindsight, it may have been interesting. I basically only kept a daily log in a little Moleskine journal, with the date, a very rough route description and the bicycle I rode. I estimate mileage to be several thousand miles, but I have no desire to try and make a more specific calculation. Beyond this, the only other stats I can offer are:
- I have ridden 14 different bicycles – in 4 states and one foreign country (Italy)
- I had one significant crash
- I wore out one pair of shoe cleats and one camera
- number of cows and old barns seen along the way … (lost count long ago)
The best record of the experience, the emotions, and the daily adventures is probably buried in the entries of this blog over the past year. The rides with friends and family, the rides in the rain, the rides in the snow, the rides on the sunny blue-sky days. The several thousand photos I have accumulated, many appearing in these entries. It’s a little too difficult to sum up.
While I wish I had something more profound or insightful to say for this final day, I can’t find the words tonight – other than, “it’s not hard – go out and ride your bicycle.” One day a week or seven days a week. Thirty days, or 330 days. It’s the best gift you will ever give yourself. All you have to do is pedal.