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love letters

Today I cried.

We returned to one of the houses from yesterday – the house with the little dogs.  Thankfully, they are now being well-cared for and waiting patiently for their injured owner to recover.

We were helping to clear a spot on the property for some heavy equipment to come in and do the big work – moving branches and pieces of lumber, sorting out scrap metal.

We also made an attempt to retrieve some salvageable items and personal belongings – somewhat unsuccessfully, as the debris pile was so incredibly broken.  It was literally like “trying to find a needle in a haystack”.   Yet here and there we would uncover a small porcelain figurine that was miraculously intact under a pile of cinderblocks and a steel door.  There was no pattern to what had survived and what had not.

found a quilt

My tears came when I found an old box of letters – postmarked from the late 1950’s, handwritten in beautiful scrolling penmanship on delicate paper – the kind that was once used for air mail.   They appeared to be love letters.  The salutation on one of the open pages began: “My Dearest Beloved …”  And I read no more, but gave them directly to the person collecting the personal possessions.

It’s difficult to handle the pieces of someone’s life – much more so than I ever could have expected.  We tried to save even the smallest items that were intact, because how can you possibly know what might have a special or sentimental meaning to the owner?  And to pick up something private and dear like an old letter … well, it can feel almost intrusive.

By mid-afternoon we had done as much as we could at the site, and left to help with a Red Cross van that was delivering hot meals to people in need.  The number of people who are able to stay in their homes but are without power (and often water) remains significant.  Eating cold sandwiches gets old pretty quickly.

our (empty) Red Cross van ... which was filled with boxes of hot meals prepared by the volunteers at Walker Valley High School

 While I am tired, and stinky, and a little bit sunburned  … I feel so incredibly fortunate.  The people I love are close and safe.  I can take a hot shower and drink a cold glass of water – with ice.  I have lights, and the little music box that was a gift from my boys is in its place on my bookshelf.  My bicycle is not wrapped around a tree.  I have clean clothes to change into, and a soft bed to sleep in.  I am truly blessed.

Posted by savaconta on May 1, 2011
  1. 05/1/2011

    Cassi thank you for so eloquently putting wotds and photos together to speak what is in all our minds and hearts. And thanks for helping out!

  2. 05/1/2011

    I’m speechless. And what is this annoying moisture coming out of my eyeballs? Darnit, twice in as many days. I’m misting up…

  3. 05/1/2011

    It’s great that you are helping in your community. The photos of the small dogs, as well as your story about the letters made me even more sad- so glad that the dogs are being cared for and the letters will be back in the owner’s hands at least. I feel rather helpless, and would like to be doing something, but I’m not very close to any area that was hit, so I’ll just donate money as usual and hope that it helps in some small way. I’d especially like to help in AL, as it’s my home state and I’m familiar with so many of the hardest hit areas, but I saw that they’ve asked people not to come in on their own, which is understandable. I found out that the tiny town (Phil Campbell, AL) where I went to a community college right after high school was basically wiped out, which is hard to even fathom.

  4. 05/1/2011

    Thank you for your reports. Check your twitter – I’ve sent a message.

  5. 05/2/2011

    Wow … incredible photos. I’m glad you’re helping. It certainly puts things in perspective, doesn’t it?

  6. 05/5/2011

    Thank you for sharing the images and your story. It brings tears to my eyes and makes those of us who got no more than a few showers feel so blessed to have been spared.

  7. 05/5/2011

    I’m so sorry. My heart goes out to you. Please stay strong.

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