There are heroes and angels among us

Georgia, particularly Barnesville, Georgia, isn't the only thing on my mind right now. Alabama is too. And, well, all of the states that were hit by last week's deadly tornadoes.

In the midst of the roaring winds that swept away the last breaths of precious loved ones and scattered their belongings for miles, there was a delicate fluttering that most may not have heard but some definitely felt.

It was the gentle fluttering of angel wings as they landed and gently wrapped their protective wings around those in the storm's path. There's no doubt that some of the miraculous stories of survival among the terror of the tornadoes are due to the delicate strength of God's couriers of protection. Some of those angels also came to take hundreds of precious souls Home.

The heart-wrenching task of trying to erase the terrible images from that day will never end for some. This week, we're seeing some of the faces behind the names of those who were lost. News media often toss around numbers. But, when you take a look at the names, the faces, behind those numbers it really brings the magnitude of the South's grief to light. As you glance through the list of identified victims, you
see entire families who perished together that night.

Both of my parents are originally from Alabama. We have a lot of family there. As often happens with time and distance, many of my Alabama relatives have slowly drifted away. I can only pray that all of them were well out of the storm's path that day.

Flashlights and first aid kits may be in short supply in Alabama right now but grief, my friends, is not. At last count, over 250 had died in Alabama. Entire towns have been obliterated. An astonishing list of nearly 400 are still missing in Alabama.

They're desperate for help. Desperate for working hands, supplies and the basics of life. Desperate for hope and strength to face the trying days, weeks, months and years ahead of them.

Today, I took time to peruse the list of names of the victims. Just looking at the names you can imagine the heartbreak. An elderly woman who had beaten the odds to make it to 97 lost her life that day in St. Claire County. The youngest Alabama victim lived in Tuscaloosa. She was only 8 months old.

While it is just a list of names of people most of us don't know, when I got to the list for Ruth in Marshall County, my heart sank. Of the five reported dead, all were Hallmarks. From their ages, it would appear it was three generations of the same family. A note is made on the list that the twin sister of one of those taken by the storm is in the intensive care unit of a Birmingham hospital. Julie Hallmark, just 17 months, is fighting for her life without some of those who loved her most. It's hard to think about what this tiny little girl has lost. The story of the Hallmark family is heart wrenching.

And, of course, there are the injured. Over 1000 in Tuscaloosa alone. Over 1 million Alabama homes and businesses were without power as of Saturday.

Overwhelming. Just overwhelming.

They're desperate for help. In part because many of those they would depend upon, fire and police and other emergency personnel, had their buildings and equipment completely wiped out by the twisters.

And, then there are the looters. They always seem to survive don't they? I think it has to with that whole cockroach theory. Cockroaches will always survive to plunder for crumbs.

Perhaps one of the most touching and poignant feature pieces done on the deadly twisters, was penned by Joe Kovac of The Macon Telegraph. I'm linking to it. Please take a moment to read this story. It is amazing writing about some amazing stories of survival and loss in Barnesville.

I can't claim to have the honor of having known any of those who lost their lives that tragic night. But, some of the pictures of those lost have touched my soul and broken my heart. A Facebook page honoring victims of the tornadoes has posted photos of some of those who perished.

Just seven weeks ago, a jubilant Carrie Grier Lowe, 26, of Pleasant Grove gave birth to a beautiful son. Her husband and newborn son survived the storms. Sadly, the new mother did not. She is pictured here with the joy of motherhood clearly shining from her soul. Witnesses said she was found still huddled over her son's infant seat, in an effort to protect him. Her last act in life was giving everything she had to protect the tiny boy she had just given birth to.

And, then there's Lieutenant Wade Sharp of Louisiana. Lt. Sharp did the only thing he could think of when the tornado suddenly descended upon him and his daughter. They were camping in a Mississippi park when the ferocious winds began whipping through their tent. The 40-year-old dad flung his body over his sleeping nine-year-old daughter to protect her.

Just minutes after, a sweetgum tree was torn from its foundation and fell through the tent, striking Lt. Wade on the back of the head. He died instantly. Miraculously, and to his credit, his daughter survived.

They're just a few faces behind the hundreds of names of those we lost last week. Too often, we just see the numbers. The story takes on a life of its own when you can see the faces of those whose lives were taken too soon by the unpredictable fury of nature.

For every name, let us all remember there is a face. A story. A life that was cherished by those who knew them. For every name, there is immeasurable and almost unbearable grief for those who loved them.

Tonight, I write you with a heart that is convinced that there are lots of heroes among us. There are a lot of angels among us as well. A tip of the Grasshopper's hat to all of you who are putting your own lives on hold to be someone in need's angel or hero in the aftermath of this tragedy. You're giving help. You're giving hope.

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  1. This is beautifully written thank you so much for sharing it with me. I to did not know anyone that perished but I feel a connection to each and every one and I pray for the families that are left behind to pick up the pieces. Do you mind if I share it on my page?

  2. Of course you can. Thank you for what you're doing. It is heartbreaking to see all of those smiling faces and know that someone, somewhere is missing them tonight.

  3. We Love the Grasshopper!May 2, 2011 at 11:23 PM

    Tears fill my eyes each time I see the torn apart houses, broken trees and destruction in Barnesville. After reading your words I am reminded of how lucky all of us were that night. I was also reminded of what a beautiful writer you are.

  4. This is amazing...I emailed a friend of mine in Selma tonight and said the exact same things...I am from Tuscaloosa and I was trying to express what so many have been feeling...and I talked about how you hear the numbers...the statistics...and then you start hearing the personal stories and all of a sudden they are no longer statistics...we just can't sticj our heads in the sand just because my home may not have been affected...I ache for this city...

  5. you have captured all that was in my heart and put it into words. God bless all who died, all who were injured, all that suffered and are still suffering. Thank you for putting into words what so many of us feel. Your words are beautiful. I would never be able to write what I feel but I can and will share this with others.

  6. You made me stop and really think. Thank you. Very well written and inspiring.

  7. Beautifully written.

  8. I was raised in Tuscaloosa and I will be sharing this with many of my friends and relatives. I hope others will do so as well. Many us of need reminding need that the people we lost were loved and aren't just numbers. My heart breaks for everyojne impacted by this tragedy.

  9. Thank you for sharing your amazing talent with us.

  10. Eloquent and masterful writing Grasshopper! You selected the perfect song to complement your piece. Well done! (as always) :)

  11. Yes there are truly angels among us God Bless You and all the victims all our prayers to all

  12. I have read this post many times. Each time tears fill my eyes and goosebumps break out. Your writing touches me and gives me chills. What you have written here is what the heart of the South is feeling right now. Thank you for sharing your words. I believe there are Angels among us.

  13. This is so beautiful. I wish that everyone who reads this would share it. It puts into words what so many of us feel. Thank you for sharing.

  14. Thank you Grasshopper for writing this piece. I didn't know any of these people but my husband was in Alabama working to restore their power. He sent me many pictures of the destruction. He was a bit overwhelmed by all of this. I just kept telling him that we were ok back here and he was doing a good deed.

  15. I think it goes without saying that he was/is overwhelmed. Such devastation, heartbreak and destruction. And, you're right, there's nothing like getting some of the basics back to help begin the recovery process.

    After being struck by such tragedies, being cut off from the world by lack of electricity to get your news, cook dinner, etc. just adds to the panic and the misery. He should be proud of his hand in helping bring Alabama back. They have such a long way to go but all the of the tiny footsteps and helping hands will get them there. I know you are proud of him as well, as you should be! Thank you for your sweet comment. There is no greater compliment to a writer than having someone tell you they enjoyed something that you've written.

  16. I am Lt Wade Sharp's mom and I would like to thank you for the tribute that you have written in honor of these victims. My son was a hero to many in the community and to his police brothers but to none more than to me and his family. He made sure to send our 9 yr old granddaughter back home safe and unharmed. Our community sent 2 u-haul trucks of donations and necessities in his honor to a little town in MS that was totally destroyed, ..just wish that we could have helped all. May God Bless you and bless and comfort in some way each and every victim and their families, of these tragic storms.

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