April 14, 2009

We're Not In Kansas Anymore, Toto

I rant and rave and berate and generally feel a sense of apathy for this place, my hometown. The smallness (and small mindedness), the backstabbing, the neverending gossip, the... nevermind, you get the idea. I'm not the only one from there who holds the same kind of contempt for the place. But right now I'm feeling very sentimental and protective of the place. My hometown is Mena, Arkansas and unless you've been living under a rock - or you just ignore any news out of Arkansas because you think all Arkansans are barefoot, uneducated, hillbillies and your prejudice (and by prejudice I mean your superiority complex) makes it hard for you to stop saying stupid shit and making idiotic comparisons in your vain attempt to prove that you are better than an Arkansan. You're not, mmkay? It doesn't make you look witty, it makes you look like an asshole. Now, where was I? Oh yes, if you didn't already know, Mena took a direct hit from an F3 tornado on Thursday April 9 at 8pm. I was on my way there and by some miracle, I chose to stop about 80 miles north at my sisters house cuz I just couldn't take the screaming and crying and nonsense from the backseat anymore.

For over 2 hours my sister and I called everyone we knew, every business we knew, the police station, the hospital, people we were sure we'd never speak to again just trying to get some word on our family and friends. The hospital told us pretty early on that when they last talked to my mom she was heading to the tornado shelter at the courthouse. That was comforting for about 2 minutes until we got word that the courthouse took a direct hit. I called my mom's cell 48 times and Freddy's cell nearly that much. We called her house and her business at least 30 times - it was terrifying! Finally we found out that they were ok. Got ahold of Ronda from Jacked Up Jungle and found out that she and her daughter were ok but their home and car had been hit. Ronda's mug made it onto the national news and she had me slingin' snot thinking of how damn scared they must have been.

It turns out all the people in Mena aren't spawned from some kind of gossip-spewing, sidewinding monster. The amount of unbelievable generosity from just the local people helping their neighbors was amazing. I lost count of the license plates of ordinary people who went and spent as much as they could afford to buy up all the supplies they thought could be used and drove to Mena to start handing them out free. The vans full of food driving around trying to feed everybody. The people on their hands and knees gathering up knick knacks and photos to hopefully return to their owners.

I cried 5 times when I was there. When we knew my family and friends were alive. When I actually saw my mother's truck with every window blown out and knew for sure that she could have been killed. When I saw so many people helping eachother - people who had their own homes to repair but chose to help their neighbor because his was worse. When my sister's friend called to say that when the tornado hit their mobile home and it crashed around them, she and her young son sang Jesus Loves The Little Children at the top of their lungs because she was sure they would both die. And the last time was when someone told us they drove by a house that was only a pile of rubble and on the front steps that once led to the front door, a very old woman stood clutching a blender and sobbing. If that doesn't choke you up, you have no heart. And we might be able to be friends. Shhhh. I'll email you later.

I cried for the people and what they lost - not their houses or their cars but their homes and what they worked their whole lives for. I cried for the sense of loss. I cried for what must have been unimaginable terror. I cried because this is one of a very few times I have felt proud of my hometown. Once was when the young people ran the KKK out of town. They had their signs and we had ours. They left. I was proud of Mena after the 1993 Tornado - which looks like a bitty windstorm compared to this.

I have hundreds of photos on Facebook and anybody can look at them from these links

This link is to my album filled with pictures of my parent's house, property and close by areas.

This link is to my album filled with pictures of all around town and out in the county.
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