An F4 tornado in Wilkes County is shocking, but reaction of victims, neighbors no surprise
What it wasn't, however, was surprising.
It was no surprise that a man like Doug Denard had prepared in advance a place of safety for his family, or that he'd kept close track of the storm on his weather radio, and no surprise that he'd moved his family quickly to the basement seconds before the storm hit.
To people of faith, it shouldn't have been a surprise that, even as the tornado ripped the very house from its foundation, showing sky where there should have been house, that something or Someone kept Doug, Paula, Logan, and Emily safe, as if a giant hand held them in place.
Answered prayer shouldn't be a surprise, should it?
I've heard that all over the county, regular Wednesday night church turned into heartfelt prayer services at the sound of the sirens, and rightly so. If the sound of tornado sirens isn't an urgent call to prayer, I don't know what is.
It's certainly not a surprise, at least to anyone who knows country people, that within seconds of the storm hitting, trucks full of neighbors, friends, first responders, trained rescuers and medics were swarming toward Stony Ridge Road to see who needed help. Once they knew nobody was hurt or missing, they just got to work. Somebody needed helping - what else would you do?
By daylight Thursday, there must have been over a hundred family, friends, neighbors, and strangers helping find the family's treasures and belongings among the rubble and pack them away for safekeeping. None of them were surprised when the food started showing up. Word had gotten to the folks at McDonald's that a crowd would need feeding, and the answer was "Whatever you need." A friend brought dozens of pizzas and another brought snacks and drinks for the workers. They saw a neighbor's need and met it, not waiting to be asked.
It may have surprised some folks, but shouldn't have, when David and Janie Cravens offered the Denards the use of a furnished house until they get back on their feet. I've been aware their quiet generosity for 14 years, and I've seen that life's always been about people first for the Cravens, and meeting needs is as natural as breathing for them.
Now, there were some people who were really surprised at the community's reaction to their neighbors' disaster. The young reporters from the Augusta TV stations couldn't quite understand what they were seeing. Being city folks, they kept asking which official agency was organizing this relief effort, what government entity had taken such quick emergency recovery effort.
The answer is none. It was just hard-working country folks, people who meet needs with open hearts and open hands. They've known for a long time that taking care of neighbors in need is much too urgent to be left to strangers, much less the government.
That's the way it is here, and I thank God for it.