After the storm

Published 9:31 pm Wednesday, March 31, 2021

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By SASHA JOHNS / Community Columnist

From the safety of my dad’s basement, I heard the infamous “train sound” of the storm blowing over the house, and my first thought was, “That didn’t sound so bad.” It was fast, and seemed distant. I heard metal somewhere flexing and felt some vibrations, but it was nothing like the movies that I’d seen.

It lasted less than 15 seconds. I talked to my disabled stepmother through the entire thing.

Then, less than five minutes later, we walked out of the basement through the garage, and saw that the entire landscape had changed in that 15 seconds. At the same moment my eyes were trying to make sense of the devastation, I heard the chainsaws. Less than five minutes and the community was already showing up.

Columbiana is a small town. It’s an old town. It’s a town of deep generational roots and it’s the quiet little seat of our great county. I’ve lived here three years now and have come to realize that the character and the community, and the resilience of the people found here is an example that has flowed into the rest of Shelby County for almost 200 years.

As the storms hit multiple cities in Shelby County Thursday, the goodwill, the kindness and the helping hands showed up immediately in their wake. We’re all still reeling from the destruction, but the overflowing love makes it all a little more tolerable. It’s been good to see it after a year of so much division.

As the weeks begin to pass and the news cycles begin to change over the next two months, my prayer is that the community will continue to show up. There are things that those of us who are in the position to help can continue to do even as the mess is cleaned up and becomes a memory. Those most affected will need help for a while, those needs will just change.

Insurance claims can take a while to get worked out. Many of your friends will need rides until their cars are replaced.

Many families will be moving their belongings from their homes to storage and back home again as their living situations find stability again. Offer a helping hand where you can.

The exhaustion of trying to live life as usual, and juggling all of the new responsibilities that the losses have brought into their lives will make people weary. A homemade meal will take one more decision off their to-do list even a month or two from now.

Your friends who are in survival mode right now are still processing. In a week or two they may be ready to verbalize the trauma they can’t make sense of yet. Be that willing ear that does nothing but hear what it is they need to get off their chest.

I am incredibly grateful to be in this community. It’s been a hard year, and it’s tempting to see this as just one more awful thing piled on top of an already overwhelming stack of events that we are all still coping with. But, I challenge you to a different view. What if, after a year of distancing and division, these storms are the opportunity we didn’t know we needed? What if, it’s our opportunity to all come back together in love?