sunflowery's Diaryland Diary


The Sunday of Tornado Weekend 2005

So, finally getting to last Sunday and the Mobility For Independence Fundraiser.

I woke up early Sunday morning. Earlier than I needed to. Sleeping had been a problem all weekend long. I got up and went to the kitchen for some decalf coffee.

After about an hour, mom and dad and grandma got up too. Bob was still sleeping. I woke him up to get ready for church. He got up, got dressed, got ready and then ended up back in bed. He hadn't slept well either and was feeling really crappy. I was disappointed because I really wanted him to be at church with me to hear the stories we were sure to hear. But I understand when he's not feeling well and it's better that he get all the rest he can.

Mom, Dad, Grandma and I left for church. It was so hard driving up to the church. The church is on a hill overlooking all the destruction from the tornado. It was a bright, sunny day. A perfect sunny Sunday. People were walking into the church a little more somber, a little more quiet, but all were looking at the lost homes across the fields.

The service was jam packed. They had to get out all the extra chairs they had and set them up around the sanctuary. Half way through the worship they asked everyone to slide in so the empty chairs could be filled. There were 2 chairs next to me so I motioned to an usher, held up two fingers in the peace sign, and waited while he went to get a couple to fill the seats. A young woman, a young man and a baby came and stood next to me. I looked over, said "hi" and then did the big double take at the young woman. She looked so familiar to me. I must have looked familiar to her as well because she did the same thing to me. After staring at each other for about 30 seconds, I said, "Alison?" She corrected me, "Andrea" and then got my name right. It was then that I remembered her name. She was a senior in the high school youth group my first year as a youth leader. She was one of my favorite all time kids. I loved her and her family...great people all. And here she was with her husband of 4 years and their 6 month old baby. What a blessing. We spent most of worship catching up in snippets and blips. Not very holy of us, but come on, it had been at least 8 years since I'd last seen her. Turns out her younger brother is also married with child. Why is it that in my mind these kids are all still in high school?

During the service, the pastor gave people who had gone through the tornado a chance to share their stories. So many people. So many stories. All, very much the same. The destruction. The damage. The fear. And yet...there was more. There was peace and hope and supernatural protection and miracles. One family of 5 was saved because the shelving unit they were sitting under fell on top of them protecting them from the rest of the house falling down around them. Even their dog was spared.

An announcement was made that the Salvation Army would be training people after the second service to go into the destroyed neighborhoods. Right away I felt as though Bob and I should be there. He is so good at meeting people right where they are at and encouraging them in the midst of trial. Unfortunately, we had the fundraiser and couldn't do both. I couldn't wait to get back to mom and dad's to talk to him about it.

After church there was talking and catching up and that sort of thing. Seeing more kids I remember as being 8, 12, 18, 20 and here they are all grown up, graduated from college, engaged, married, parents...weird.

We said goodbye to my grandma, aunt and uncle and went back to mom and dad's house. Bob wasn't up yet. I sat on the bed and rubbed his back until he woke up. Then I proceeded to cry on his shoulder and ask him if we couldn't stay in town, give our condolences to the fundraising crowd and just stay and help. To his credit, he listened. He held me. He even prayed about it to see if it was something God wanted us to do. In the end though, he said we should go ahead and stick with our original committment. It was hard, but I agreed. Bob got dressed, we packed up, and went to lunch with mom and dad.

Lunch was on the restaurant this time. Mom and Dad had been there the night of the tornado and while they had paid for their meal, they never had a chance to receive or eat it. So, the restaurant, where they are regulars, picked up our whole tab, which was nice. Lunch was quick, but a nice way to end the weekend.

It felt so wrong leaving town. I cried a bit more as I drove out of town, passed the scene of the tornado, and told Bob what was on my heart. I wished we could stay. I felt guilty. Not just because we were leaving, but because we had it so good. We had a whole home. We still had all our stuff. We had so much, I wanted to stay and give whatever we could to those who had lost so much. Not only that, but we were on our way to ask people to give US something and that just felt wrong in that moment.

But I have to say that I was so proud (and continue to be) of my little home town. They are a hardy people, made up of stern, loving, hard working stuff. They came together with little notice or outside motivation to help everyone who needed it. They brought food, dug through rubble, cut up and dragged trees, looked for lost animals, and anything else that needed to be done. My town ROCKS!

So, anyway, we drove out of town and headed North to Red Wing for the MFI fundraiser. When we got to Winona, it became apparent that we were not going to make it to the casino by 4:30. We were going to be late. When Bob noticed the time, he became quiet and tense. I told him I was sorry, that I had meant for us to be early. Both of us HATE to be late and would rather not go somewhere than show up late. Bob said, "If it were me, I would have left RIGHT after church and not gone to lunch at all." This hurt me because he hadn't said anything like this when we accepted my parents invite to lunch. Of course I started to cry again. Bob immediately felt bad, said he was sorry and that he hadn't meant it like that. We talked it out while we drove and by the time we found the casino, all was good between us again. Until I parked the truck. I parked in a handicapped spot and some random guy told me I completely missed the spot and shouldn't be allowed to drive if I am handicapped. Bob was still in the truck and hadn't heard what the guy had said. It was stupid, but it really hurt me. What a jerk...what does he know. It was true that the truck was parked a little bit over the yellow line, but it was parked over the unloading zone for that space and since we didn't need it to unload, we were fine as were anyone else who might need to park nearby. Bob said if he had heard the guy, he would have given him whatfor. It just was not what I needed after the day I had had.

I wheeled Bob into the casino and we quickly found the room where the silent auction had already started. We found our nametags and our contact. It turns out that the actual dinner and program wasn't to start until 7 so it was no big deal that we were late. Huh, go figure. It also turns out that a hotel room had been procured for us for the night...for free! Woo hoo!

While we waited for the dinner to start and our hotel room to be made ready, we decided to go out to the casino floor to try our hand at the slots. I have to say that I HATE casinos. They make me feel sad. So many people are there and to me they seem lonely, desparate, and sad. And there are so many OLD people there. I just never feel comfortable at the casino. But Bob likes playing slots and pull tabs, so we played. Of course we lost. We didn't have a lot of money to play with in the first place, so it was gone pretty fast. Thankfully Bob and I both play by the same rule. You set aside a certain amount of money to play and when it's gone, you are done. So, we were done pretty early.

Thankfully, the dinner started soon after. We were seated with Ruth, her lovely daughter and their friend Katie, the reigning Miss Wheelchair Minnesota. Katie also happens to be the first recipient of a Mobility For Independence grant for a wheelchair van which she received 15 years ago. We also met the other 2 families who would speak at the program in hopes of getting people to dig down deep and help fund their need for a van.

The dinner was OK. So-so salad and cold apple pie. The meal looked amazing though. Filet Mignon and giant grilled shrimp and grilled veggies and new potatoes. Unfortunately I am allergic to shrimp and the plates had already been plated (look at me, restaurant talk!). This means that anything the shrimp touched on the plate would also illicite an allergic reaction in me so just removing the shrimp was not an option. Thankfully, they did have a vegitarian alternative so they brought that out to me and it was OK. I got lots and lots of mushrooms, baby corn, pea pods, water chestnuts, and carrots. Not very filling though.

The program was awesome. They showed a video of past recipients and how MFI had met their needs. They introduced past recipients in attendence and then they introduced the people there who would share their current need, including my fabulous husband Bob!

After that was the live auction and celebrity introductions. The auction went fairly well and most of the celebrities were sports figures I didn't know. But we had a lot of fun and really ended up enjoying the evening. We met some amazing people and we were honored to be a part of such a wonderful organization. MFI was started by a man by the name of Leo Grossman, a man who had a rare condition wherein he needed to have his limbs amputated limb by limb over the years. His friends and family raised the money he needed to get a van and he was inspired to start a foundation to do the same thing for others in similar need. Leo was an amazing, positive, hopeful man and we wish we had had the honor of knowing him.

After the dinner and program, we schmoozed a bit, took photos, and then went to our hotel room. It was nothing spectacular, but it was nice. We ordered room service and then went right to bed.

I have to say, Sunday night was the best nights sleep I had had all weekend. Heck, probably the best I'd had all week. Both Bob and I slept from about 11 until about 9 am. We got up, got packed and checked out by the 11 am time limit.

On our way home, Bob fell asleep in the car! More sleep. We got home about an hour later and just were so thankful to be there. Our cats were thrilled to have us home as well. The rest of the day was spent unpacking and settling in. I didn't have school that night, so an early bedtime was a Monday night treat.

So that's the story of Tornado weekend. Tomorrow, catching up since then.

Oh, and gas is now $3.10 here in the cities. Thankfully, I gassed up this morning for $2.49 (who would have ever thought I'd be THANKFUL for that price?) so I am good to go for another week or two. I should get back into biking or hiking to work since that will go a long way in saving my gas for my drive to and from school. Although we don't have school this coming Monday because of Labor Day. Anyway, how much is gas by you?

8:09 p.m. - Tuesday, Aug. 30, 2005


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