To read earlier entries about the tornado, click here.
People have been commending me on my strength. My courage. My bravery in writing these posts.
I am not strong, nor courageous, nor brave.
I have no idea what I am doing. I am learning as I go...walking in the dark.
I did not do this, I did not pick up the pieces and try to move on, alone. People picked me up and carried me. They told me what I needed and how they were going to make it happen. They provided me with the basics that I couldn't provide myself. without asking, they knew what I needed, and how I would want things done. I couldn't do it, but they could, and they did.
I had help. A lot of help.
The reason I am still standing, still fighting, still here, is because other people picked me up, held me up and reminded me of who I was, when I didn't want to face it anymore, or didn't know how.
This post is to say thank you.
To my home community of Howick Township and the town of Gorrie for wrapping your arms around my children while they were with my mom and grandma, buying them clothes and gifts, buying food for my grandma's house even though her fridge, freezers and cupboards are always completely stocked for any type of emergency, for taking them to the pool, the library, for walks and just allowing them to sit on your knees...and also for supporting us with your many donations of everything from money to hair care products...I thank you. Howick has always been my home and the community is a tight one. Thank you for wanting to look after one of your own.
To Amy, my friend since almost the beginning of time, for feeling moved to immediately organize a donation drive in Howick Township over facebook, the very first card we received...I will never forget what you did. You are always a part of my heart.
To the Wingham Columbus Centre Thursday Afternoon Volunteer Program - a program I had never heard of run by staff I had never met, for hearing our story and feeling compelled to act. we were left overwhelmed and speechless. Thank you to Ty, Courtney and Janine for the role you each played in that.
To Baseball Ontario for hearing of Makenna's story and sending her a care package, we are touched. And to Paul and Annette, who made that happen, you are very special people. Thank you.
To people I have met professionally, when I was the helper helping you...the one who delivered food, food and more food to the Goderich Firehall when they needed it most, driving through stormy weather to do so...to the one who donated a dryer to us when you found out we needed one, to the ones who have sent cards, emails, messages and more offering your thoughts, prayers and support...I am touched. I am proud to know you. Thank you.
To The Lambton County Quilters Guild, who provided beautiful patchwork quilts to my children, thank you for caring. They love them.
To my "Sunbeams" spread throughout Eastern Canada, The United States and The United Kingdom who have proven geography is no boundry...I have no words. Thank you.
To the members of the Brussels Fire Department who showed up Sunday to help Jeff and returned Monday and Tuesday to help my family...each of you are the very definition of what a "volunteer" is. This is not your community and we had never even met 2 of you before, but you were as committed and dedicated as anyone else in our town. We are honoured to know all 4 of you. Thank you.
To Lynn, for staying with me and my kids on that Sunday afternoon when it became clear I couldn't do it alone. For helping me look after my kids, and for getting them to a safe place, for stopping when you could have just kept walking and not leaving until everyone was taken care of....Thank God you came along that day.
To Kris, for coming with Mike on the Tuesday, being of few words but much action, thank you for wanting to be there. For everything you did, even though I was so out of it I really don't know what anyone did.
To the Renons, the Bakkers, the Zondags, and I don't even know who all else, for lending us totes and finding us boxes...thank you for helping to make that part easier. The totes are all labelled and I promise to return them someday.
To Deb, Shelley, John, Caroline and the entire staff of Goderich Public School, for caring, going above and beyond, for your thoughtfulness and your discretion...we are so very blessed to be a part of such a supportive school community.
To Donna and Gilles, Corey and Glen, Liz, Paul and Marilyn, Brain and Tabatha and Brenda - for the gifts for our family and our children...thank you so very much for the kindness you have shown.
To Larry and Janice for doing our laundry, taking our kids to the park, having us over for dinner, and for the hugs...you are such amazing people and we are so blessed to have you in our lives. and to Jon and Aaron for just showing up and going to work on the physical stuff when Jeff wasn't around...such good boys from such a great family.
To Ang and Rob and Bummer and Tammy for bringing food when we were packing up the house on Park St, for showing up to help us unpack and dealing with all my bakeware, for doing our laundry, for raising such amazing kids, for checking in in the days that followed and for just "getting it"...I am so glad I know you and your families...thank you for friendship and your support.
To Ian, Kyle, Ryan, Jay, Aaron and all of the other firemen, and your families - for all you have done to help and support us, thank you.
To Wendy, for showing up, walking in and setting right to work on that Tuesday, and to you and Keith both for volunteering to look after our cat until we could look after him again ourselves. Thank you for cleaning him up, feeding him and loving him. We appreciated not having to worry about that.
To Steve and Laurie, everything you have done for us has been so appreciated. Thank you for everything, we love you both.
To Dorothy, for the insurance expertise, encouragement and support. For lunch for all 4 of us. For constantly checking in on me and being there. For understanding and supporting my time away form work. For "getting it". Thank you.
To Laura and Mark for the care package, the cake, the dinner, and for taking my kids off my hands...we are so glad to have friends like you who just know, at exactly the right moment, what I need and what to do. Thank you.
To the Smoyc families for your support, camraderie and expertise in various areas, thank you for being there, always ready, whatever we need.
To all of our friends, from near and far, Goderich and beyond, for all of the calls, messages, emails, visits and more to check in and offer support, thoughts, prayers and encouragement...thank you to those not from Goderich for being here in spirit, for keeping us in your thoughts, for being such great people. Thank you to those who are from here for pretending you didn't notice my red rimmed eyes or shaky voice. For being there to catch me when I fell. For assuring me that this too, would pass. We have read everything from everyone and are overwhelmed at everyone's care and concern.
To Jen, for all the food you brought to Park St, for the dinner, doing our laundry, allowing Jeff to shower, for guiding us with the new vehicles and of course...for the truffles, thank you so much, for everything.
To Ty and Courtney, for looking after the needs of our children, lending us your Escape, your constant messages, support and encouragement...we love you. You both deserve every happiness in life and we know you will achieve it. Thank you.
To Glenn and Anne for the truck, for breakfast, for the hangers, the shoulders, the conversations and for always being there...we needed you and you came through. We will never forget what you have done for us. Thank you.
To the Pitlane staff, thank you for your concern and kind words. Thank you for understanding that Jeff is under tremendous stress.
To Rick and Stacy - You made one of the most difficult parts of this whole thing, easy. You gave us your home. We had no idea what to do or how to do it, and you stepped in and gave us the answer. We will never be able to repay you for that and will always be grateful that you took away what would have been the hardest task, finding a new home, before we were even ready to tackle the problem. Very few people would do what you did...thank you.
To Michelle, Jan, Jaqui, Shelley, and everyone else at Victim Services - where would I be without you? than you for keeping an eye on me, for hooking me up, for having big shoulders and for always having kleenex. For the emails, the texts, the phone calls and so very many hugs...thank you so very much.
To Darren and Jen. There are no words. We owe you so much and would have been lost without you. Thank you for making the most difficult time in our lives so much easier on us. For loving our children as if they were your own. For being there to debrief with. Staying with a fellow Captain on the Fire Department and a Social Worker, we were in good hands. Thank you for listening and helping us to make sense of an impossible situation. You are such special friends. We will never forget what you did for us.
To Sheila, Patti and Jodi. Thank you for being by my side during the hardest 3 days of my life. Thank you for your friendship and all the things you said, and didn't say. Thank you for knowing. Thank you for taking over. Thank you for the encouragement, support and strength. For picking me up when I fell, over and over again. For talking me up, and down. For letting me cry and for drying my tears. For breakfast, lunch, and supper. For being inside my head when I couldn't figure out what was in there myself. I truly honestly would not have gotten through those 3 days, or the many that have followed, without you. Thank you to Jeff, Barry and Matt for taking over and doing all that Jeff couldn't do himself when he wasn't there. I will always remember the strength and smarts of my 3 surrogate husbands that week and would have been lost without them.
To Jodi and now Brenda, for looking after my most precious assets and making sure they were okay when I couldn't. For providing normalcy to them and assuring me, over and over and aver again, that they were and will be, fine. For supporting and encouraging me and being such wonderful friends to me during some of my tougher moments.
To the Wormington family for being on the other end of the phone, for checking in, for driving all the way up to help only to be forbidden entry to the town, forcing you to go home discouraged. for looking after the kids, for supporting us, for maintaining a normal birthday party under the most abnormal circumstances. For bringing us food, helping us unpack and for all you will continue to do for us in the future...thank you so very much for always being there.
To my Daddy...who was out west when he got a text from Shelley announcing there was a tornado in Goderich and it sounded really bad...who tried unsuccessfully for a couple of hours to get ahold of most of my family...who was on his way to the airport when he was finally notified that we were in fact okay...who has checked in and provided support, caring and advice from across the country when we know it's killing him to be there and not here, for allowing up to smpty your house to replace what we lost...thank you for always being you, and always being there.
To my family...where do I begin? Walking in from Saltford to rescue my children, keeping them safe, secure and loved for the better part of a week, for checking in multiple times every day, for "rallying the troops", for the messages on my facebook wall every day, for trusting us to handle this ourselves, for your prayers, support, encouragement, and for hiding your tears from us. For doing everything you did and everything we don't even know about...Thank God for all of you. Thank you.
To Nicole, for being here with me, standing beside me, packing up my house, entertaining the kids, making sure I ate, following me out the door when the tears overcame me, looking me in the eye but keeping your mouth closed because you knew there were no words that could make it better... for always being there...thank you for being my sister.
And to the brother who is five years younger than me but my "big brother" in every sense of the word...how do I thank you? You saved me. You watched out for Jeff and kept me informed. You watched out for me and kept me sane. You had to be Mom and Dad's informant, promising them that we were doing okay. You have always had "a guy" for something, and now, when we needed it most, you came through, over and over again. You were my rock, Michael. You should be very proud of how well you handled this, and handled us, especially considering you don't even live here and didn't have to come at all. I owe so much to you. You have absolutely shone throughout this entire ordeal. We have been there for eachother throughout so many things, and now this. This ranks right up there...there is no bond stronger on Earth.
And to my Jeff. A tornado went through our home, our vehicles, our life...but not our marriage. Our marriage is stronger and we know now that if we can come out the other side of this, we can weather any and all of life's "storms". Thank you for your strength, for your compassion, for being such a caring and brilliant father. For trusting me to handle things in a way that ensured they would be taken care of, and for taking care of things when I had nothing left to give anymore. For accepting my brother for who he is and letting him have the answers. For all you have done for this family, and this community, you are a hero.
So you see? I did not do this. All of those people and so many others that I didn't name specifically here, did this. If not for them, this story certainly wouldn't have been told the way that it has been.
My brother wasn't there when I freaked out at my grandma's house and headed for the basement during the threat of more bad weather on the Wednesday. He heard all about it though. (One thing about my family: we are close...and everyone knows everyone else's business). It was no surprise to me when he mentioned hearing all about it.
He said to me at one point after that:
"You are going to have people who are jealous of all you are going to get now - new house, new kitchen, new bathrooms, new vehicles. Jealous of the attention. Of the opportunities that may come out of this. You are going to have people who don't understand why you are acting the way you are when you and your family escaped unharmed, when you recovered most of your contents unlike some people who lost everything. You are going to have people who think you should be grateful, who think you should be 'over it' and who just don't understand why you are acting the way you are". That you are "lucky". That you need to "let go and move on".
"Don't you ever forget", he continued, "those people were not crouched down in their basement stairwells, with a 6 year old and a 3 year old screaming between them while their house broke apart above them...they will never know what that feels like or does to a person's insides."
They will never know what it was like to walk out onto what was left of our front porch and see what we saw in those first few minutes. What it was like to see my husband running around in circles in absolute panic. What it was like to watch him leave and only see him in passing throughout the most difficult time in my life. What it was like to walk my children throughout the jungle that was my neighbourhood without their father, trying to keep them safe, ultimately responsible for everything that was happening to them in those first few hours afterwards. They will never know the guilt I feel from what those kids were exposed to while I was in shock. The guilt Jeff feels for not being there for wife and children. They will never know what its like to smell gas on your street, a smell so strong it puts you on your knees and makes you physically nauseous...fearing your entire street could blow up at any moment, and feeling like you didn't know where to go or what to do. They will never know what it is like to hear sirens in your head long after they have stopped wailing. To stick your hand out your bedroom ceiling into the sky. To have your home condemned and to drive by it every day, forbidden to enter it, and having to subject your children who have spent their lives to date in that house, to that.
They may not be getting a new house. But they have no idea what we have went through, and will continue to go through, to get ours. We are not lucky that we are getting a new house. We are lucky that we are alive and together. The other day someone said to me "Homes can always be rebuilt"...and yes, that's true...but it minimizes what we are going through. Please don't do that.
For those directly affected, the F3 tornado that ravaged Goderich on August 21 2011 was not an event. It is a process. It's not over. It's not all better. Just because the streets have reopened, the stores have reopened, and fundraising dollars are coming in, doesn't mean everything is alright now. In many ways we are just getting started in our journey of healing. We can not pretend to be "over it", that it is a thing of the past...because it's not....it is very much a part of our everyday life, and will be, for a very long time.
In my very first post in this series, I remembered that I had written a post awhile ago, before the tornado ever happened questioning the reasons why things happen to us. what the message is supposed to be, why things happen to us the way that they do. Is the Universe trying to tell us something? I have been reminded of that post a lot in the last few weeks and I still don't know that I have come to any sense of peace around that.
But what I do know, more than ever before, is that we are blessed. We live in an outstanding community, surrounded by and supported by amazing friends and family. People have stepped up for us in ways I would have never dreamt possible.
Perhaps this blog will in some way answer some questions I asked aloud in that original post, what feels like a lifetime ago. This blog has generated a lot of attention, thanks to all of you passing it along to others. Because of what I have written, a few opportunities have presented themselves to me. Maybe I am heading down a different path, or maybe its just temporary, I don't know. While staying at Jen's house for those 2 weeks she was adamant that good was going to come to us out of all of this. To Jeff, and to me. I don't know what, if anything will happen, but I am ready to find out and open to the possibilities.
We are not victims. We are survivors. We will recover. But it won't be tomorrow. There have been some dark moments. We lived in the dark for 4 days and felt like we were walking in the dark for a lot longer than that.
In the weeks since the tornado, I have learned of many others who are also walking in the dark, searching for answers, questioning the reasons and the future. People whose lives are undergoing huge changes, having nothing to do with a tornado. There has been a lot of bad news in my circle of friends and aquaintances lately. Its almost overwhelming when you start to add it all up. So much sadness, shock, fear and uncertainty. So much darkness, in the lives of so many people I know and care about...
And so, to end this off, I will share something my friend Jen (another friend not mentioned before...I have a lot of friends named Jen!) shared with me.
She reminded me that you have to wait out the dark in order for the morning to come.
Thank you, to all of you, for your love, support, encouragement and prayers. It has meant everything to me, and to us.
I will keep you updated.
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