By Christy Box, Grade 10
I stepped out of the car and onto a street that looked like a war zone. Broken glass lay on the sidewalk, enormous trees lay with their roots torn out of the soil on the ground or against buildings, and debris or empty spaces waited where the buildings used to be.
The April tornadoes weren’t just news to me, they were a nightmare. One destroyed my old hometown in Cullman, Alabama. It was just a small town that no one had heard of until that tornado hit. Now, the destruction has made it national news.
I wandered past an empty lot that had been a beautiful cafe ever since the early 1900s. I remembered staring into its window when I was a kid, thinking how picturesque it was. The only things left were three worn booths. As I trudged further, a massive pile of wooden frames, twisted metal, and bricks rose before me. I had lived there for years, and yet I couldn’t figure out what anything used to be because there was too little left. This used to be downtown, a place I drove through a thousand times on my way to the library or church. All that was left was a pile of lifeless debris.
As I went further into town, the memories began hitting harder. I didn’t like looking at my former trick-or-treating neighborhoods in shambles. One of my biggest shocks was finding National Guard troops gathered around wrecked buildings, guarding them with guns in hand.
Unfortunately, the worst part of my nightmare was yet to come. In the distance, I saw the place where I met my first best friend, where I would play games every week, and where I learned my first Bible verses. The gym where I played those games was leveled, the sanctuary where I learned my verses was shattered to pieces, and the places where my friends and I played were destroyed. The church that changed my outlook on life had been wiped out.
The tornadoes didn’t just destroy old buildings; the tornadoes destroyed pieces of my past. I used to imagine driving through Alabama someday with friends or a family and pointing out the places I used to go. I knew then that this would never happen. People tried to comfort me, claiming they were only buildings, only parks, only houses, but they were more to me than that.
As I went back through the damage, I felt shocked and hopeless, and I wondered how such a large piece of my life could be wiped out in a single hour. But, wait, there was a glimmer of hope in the distance. I spotted a delicate 19th century chapel, so tiny that it only had room for a dozen people. Humongous trees had fallen all around it, power lines were crumpled to the ground, and the leveled cafe was just across the street. But that chapel was untouched. Even though every window in town was broken, the stained glass window wasn’t missing a single piece. It made me think that things might be all right.
After all, even though the places I remember are gone, I still have the memories.
Photograph by Christy Box