“Hey, are you okay?”
“Are you safe? I heard about the tornadoes.”
“I know you’re probably getting a billion messages like this today, but I wanted to make sure you were safe.”
Should I not be okay?
A quick Google search tells me why the sweet people in my life are messaging. The headlines are jarring.The footage of a tornado ripping through downtown Nashville is surreal. It looks like a scene out of a movie that I definitely wouldn’t want to watch.
How did I sleep through this? Had I heard the sirens? I remember the lightning waking me up, flashing a warning in the middle of the night. I remember counting 8 seconds to the thunder—8 miles—and counting 8 seconds again. The storm was staying away. That meant I was safe.
I open my porch door to an impossibly beautiful morning. The sky already a piercing blue, and the birds singing nonchalantly. How could something so terrible have happened and there be no evidence? I answer the phone to concerned family members and assure them I am safe, untouched. I guess I should make my coffee? And go to work?
It feels so wrong to continue living normal life in the aftermath of a tragic storm. I drive to work on abnormally empty roads, distractedly answer emails in between checking the news for updates. We go for an afternoon walk on an ironically beautiful day. We try to piece together what just happened to our community.
With daylight came the revelation of the damage. Without much of a warning, massive trees unearthed from the ground, power lines snapped in half, and cars overturned. Sheets of metal from highway signs now hang in neighborhood trees, and live wires are strung through fallen magnolias like Christmas lights. Families have lost loved ones and thousands of people are displaced.
And the damage seems so haphazard. One street looks apocalyptic, and one block over, a trampoline still sits in its backyard. A wall with floating shelves stands intact, somehow holding its china, surrounded by a decimated home. A reporter stands in the rubble of a local concert venue—in the exact spot where I stood only a week before. A city’s world turned upside down in a matter of moments.
But people are finding treasured family jewelry in the rubble. Daffodils are growing in defiance, somehow untouched by the ravaging storm. Volunteers are showing up in droves, the numbers so high they are turning people away. A community is rallying. There is unmistakable hope in the aftermath—a hope that loss isn’t the end, that beauty comes from ashes, and what is rebuilt will be beautiful.
Olivia graduated from Calvin in May 2018 with a double major in business and writing. She now works as an editor in Nashville, Tennessee and is eating her way through the restaurants of her new town. She enjoys weekend trips with friends, petting other people’s dogs, and drinking coffee like a Gilmore Girl.