"D" Day... Demolition Day
The tornado struck the day after Christmas at about 6:45PM and in a matter of 15 seconds we lost our home. Our lives were turned upside down but the good news is... we and our two dogs survived as we took shelter in the bedroom closet.
It has been a long and arduous journey to reach "D" Day. I have experienced every emotion possible in dealing with this disaster... tears, anger, frustration, impatience, thankfulness and even some levity to help me through it all. I have seen the kindness of both friends and strangers who have come forward to help us pick up (literally) the remains of our lives and help us along our way to recovery, not to mention the ongoing support and hard work by our daughters and their husbands. We could not have done it without each and every one of you!
For those who know me, I often say that photography has saved my life so many times. It takes me to a better place, helps me to focus on the moment and is a great stress reliever. I have not been able to do as much photography as I would like since the tornado struck but am thankful that my son-in-law, Anthony climbed the ladder to the second floor of what remained of the house and found my camera amongst the debris. He took a long piece of wood and picked the camera up by it's strap and lifted it to safety. The camera was partially under debris and was covered with insulation but miracle of miracles... it still works! Canon makes a tough product! They have made a believer out of me!
Nearly every day, I would go to the remains of the house and find another bit of my life to salvage. I became obsessed with finding what I could and could not sleep at night as, in my mind, I would still be searching and wondering if certain items had been found. Each day that I would return to the house, more of the structure would have caved in and it was becoming more dangerous to enter some areas. I could see things but could not safely get to them.
It was almost a relief when "D" Day came as it would mark the end to my searching and hopefully bring closure to this part of my life. I was physically and emotionally exhausted. Interestingly enough, demolition came on a day exactly 28 years from the day when we moved into the house. My husband moved to Texas ahead of us and rented an apartment. Our youngest daughter Missy and I came to Texas on Valentine's Day in 1988, stayed in the apartment that night and then moved into the house the day after Valentine's Day. Who knew at that time how things would eventually play out 28 years later?
As painful as it was, I was there when the demolition took place. I had my camera in my hands to help me stay focused. I watched with tears in my eyes as the remaining walls came down with a thud and the dust of debris flew into the air. As the monster machine pushed the debris into a pile, I thought about what a photo friend's daughter had written when she saw the house for the first time. I actually only knew Rajesh from the photos he would post on-line but I got to meet him and his two lovely daughters when they came to "the house" on New Year's Day, 2016, to help pick through the debris to help salvage and box what might be found.
Rajesh wrote... "I spent this New Year's day afternoon visiting and trying to help a photographer/blogger friend in Rowlett, Texas. My kids joined me and here is the experience narrated by Nayana, my 12 year old. The destruction is mind boggling. It was heart warming to see friends help each other out including total strangers." In my 6th Grader Nayana's words...
"As we entered the house, I pulled my jacket up over my nose. Glass crunched under my shoes and dust particles and debris littered the ground. I looked up to see what used to be the roof. The beams were exposed, and it looked like an angry giant had punched through the ceiling. “So, this is what happens in a tornado” I murmured.
I walked out to the driveway where dozens of boxes were being packed with trinkets, posters and other things that had survived the tornado. So many people were busily moving about, packing, cleaning and helping. I wasn’t sure if there was anything I could do to help.
“How do we know Fay again?” my sister Anika asked. “Well, she is with me in the Rowlett Photography Group on Facebook and she needed help” my dad replied. “There she is”. He was looking towards a lady wearing a black coat, holding a cardboard box. Despite the fact that we were surrounded by destruction, she was smiling and laughing. She told us how she and her husband along with their two dogs had 15 seconds to take cover in the closet. Looking at the destruction all around us, it was a miracle there were no injuries to them.
There were still a lot of things visible inside the house and the garage that have not been retrieved. Perhaps it was unsafe to go into those areas. There were hard hats available and every one there including us wore masks, gloves and other protection. We spent the next hour or so trying to help loading some boxes and trying to stay out of the way of other people helping. We prepared to leave as the trucks were loaded up with Fay’s belongings headed to the storage facility in Royse City because all the storage facilities in Rowlett were full.
Since we had never seen such a calamity and we were in the area, we went to the car and took out my dad’s camera and walked around the neighborhood taking pictures of the incredibly sad scenes. As we went around the road, I noticed how one house would be intact maybe with some roof shingles ripped off, and the next would completely be destroyed.
A man across the street had put some boxes of food, cups, boxes of soda and other things under a tent. The house behind him had only one fourth of it left standing. We walked across the rubble and crossed the hardwood floors now covered with dust. Everything was gone except a small part of a staircase which we found out later was where the three teenage boys in the house took shelter when the tornado hit. All of them miraculously escaped.
My dad asked the man if it was his house that was rubble now. He replied, “It is my sister’s house and her kids were in the house when the tornado hit. They stayed in the closet. That’s what kept them alive. One of them has cut on his arm and is in the hospital. But it could have been a lot worse”. The rest of the house that wasn’t standing was blown over and was sitting on its side.
We crossed the road to the other side where was similar destruction that was left behind by the tornado. We saw a stop sign that was turned 180 degrees and lay flat on the ground. I could look through the crushed sides of some houses and find myself staring out of another giant hole in the back.
We were about to leave and head home when my dad stopped. He looked across the street. “That” he said “is a symbol of the Texas spirit”. He was pointing to a flag that was attached to a tree. It was slightly battered, but its colors were bright. And the Lone Star stood defiantly in the midst of the destruction."
THANK YOU NYANA FOR SHARING THIS WITH ME AND I WANT TO SHARE IT WITH ANYONE WHO READS THIS BLOG. YOU ARE A GIFTED WRITER AND A SENSITIVE AND CARING PERSON, AS WELL! IT IS PEOPLE LIKE YOU AND YOUR FAMILY WHO MAKE THIS WORLD A BETTER PLACE... WHO REACH OUT AND HAVE EMPATHY FOR THOSE IN NEED. I THANK YOU AND EVERYONE WHO HAS COME FORWARD TO HELP US THROUGH THIS DIFFICULT TIME! WE COULD NOT HAVE DONE IT WITHOUT YOU AND WE THANK EACH AND EVERY ONE OF YOU FROM THE BOTTOM OF OUR HEART!
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