Monday, May 16, 2011

Tuscaloosa Tornado - Day 1

Hey everyone, I know it has been a while. But a few weeks removed of college and student teaching, I believe it is time to start up the ole' blog again. No better way to start then reflecting on the past week and my trip to Tuscaloosa to help a good friend (Phillip) and his wonderful family. The next couple posts will be in a journal format, each representing the days of the trip.

DAY 1:

First night in T-town. Got to the church and met all the fine folks of First United Methodist. Including Josh Davis, who's on staff and has been so hospitable to us Kentucky folk. The team that came down form Asbury includes: Jacob Clevinger, Jonathan Rehner, Ryan Stoltzfus, Jenelle McClean, Janah (not to be confused with Janay) James, Paul Niswander, Ben Andrews, Randy Troyer, Dr. Troyer, Dr. Kulaga, and myself. We were joined by one of Paul's friend Carlton and his brother who is a student at the University of Alabama. We settled in the awesome youth room, but we couldn't do much on the first night because it was nearly dark when we arrived. We decided to ride around to make a brief assessment of the damage. Afterwords, we ran over to Holy Spirit (Phillip's school growing up) to drop off some supplies that we had picked up before heading down. Earlier in the evening we ate at Mug Shots, downtown. Two thumbs up; awesome burgers.

The supply shelter set up at Holy Spirit is mainly for the Hispanic community that is near by. That specific section of town was devastated by the tornado. By devastated, I mean piles of debris are all that remain of what used to be mobile homes and houses. It would remind you of driving into a junk yard. In some places, where there used to be houses, there are just holes in the ground. The lives and stories of some of the Hispanic folks at the shelter were amazing and troubling. I wasn't able to communicate with them for the obvious reasons, but this is what I was able to take from the conversations that occurred:
  1. The big problem happening in the community is the need for medical care.
  2. In a good amount of the homes, which were mainly trailers, the residences who survived the tornado are illegal immigrants.
  3. Because they are illegal immigrants they are refusing medical care regardless of their condition. This is due to their concerns with being deported or revealing someone else that is not supposed to there.

Phillip and his Dad were trying to convince them that they needed the medical care and that the doctors wouldn't ask any questions or to see identification. However, it seems they did not gain much ground with them. These people want nothing to do with anyone, especially Caucasian doctors, that could jeopardize their situation or that of a family member. The saddest part of all of this is not only that they refuse treatment or to go to a hospital, but they also won't claim their dead because of the same fears. Unfortunately, it seems that most deaths caused by the tornado happened in this section of town.

During these conversations, we ran into an older fella named Sebastian. His story is heartbreaking and was a good reminder of how blessed we all are. Sebastian's trailer was destroyed by the tornado and he miraculously survived. He got out of his home and went next door to check on his sister and two nieces. He found them dead in their home, but he pulled them out onto the side of the street where they were soon picked up by emergency personnel making their rounds through the damaged areas of town. Since those moments, right after the tornado passed through, he has been looking for their bodies. However, they are no where to be found. A week and a half before, Paul met Sebastian a day after the storm on a bus in the same predicament. It has been two weeks at this point and he still has no idea where they are. For now, he just hangs out at the supply shelter because he literally has no where else to go for the time being. Depressing end to day one.

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