I’m a very fortunate person.
On May 31st of last year, I took off on this whirlwind journey, thinking I’d be back within a month. 9 months later, and I’m still not in America.
And at this point, it’s truly a bittersweet symphony.
I grew up in and around Ridgway, Illinois, a piece of land that is never featured on anything more than a state map, and spent the last 4 years of my life in America in Harrisburg, Illinois.
Anyone who is watching the news right now knows full well the calamity that happened there. An EF4 tornado struck both towns, leaving Ridgway close to halfway demolished, and rocking major areas in Harrisburg hard.
Yes, I have heard from my family and friends and classmates, and no fatalities among my loved ones that I’m privy to at the moment. My family’s homes are all intact. But it could’ve been so much more different.
I look at photos and they barely look recognizable. I saw a video just a block away from my mom’s house in Ridgway, and didn’t even realize where it was until they cut to a different shot.
The beautiful Catholic church that I played my baseball across the street from is, save for the altar and the front door, destroyed.
The hardware store I used to go with my grandfather with is leveled, while the bars next door and the bank are all there with minor damage. The American Legion? Bye-bye.
And Harrisburg looks just as eerie to me. Streets I walked down filled with debris. The Wal-mart my friends and I used to meander through with damage, and the mini-mall beside it is in a pile. The hospital where my mom worked had an entire wall ripped off of it, exposing patient rooms to the outside.
And yet, as much as my prayers go out to everyone who lost, and every family who mourns, I can’t help but rejoice. So many things I am thankful for, and yet I never thought I would ever have to be thankful for things like this.
I’m grateful that, given the damage path in Ridgway, that neither my mom, my aunt, or my cousin lost their homes or lives. The odds of all three of them being missed given the account of where the tornado moved are astronomical.
Even my stepfather, who was, from what I know, in Harrisburg during the tornado was untouched.
I’m also thankful hearing reports from my friends that they are fine. So far, I know of no one that I know and care about being dead or seriously injured. That is an amazing thing, knowing I know people who have lost loved ones.
I sit over here in Asia, and see my home area being reported on by CNN like Joplin, Missouri last year, and so many others before it, and it’s just surreal. Last year, I was sitting there eyes fixed on the disaster from the earthquake in Asia, now I’m in Asia eyes fixed on the disaster in my own backyard.
Really, things like that remind you of what you take for granted and the things you should be thankful for always. Even something simple like the internet. Without Facebook and Skype, I would be waiting on pins and needles for days to find out all the reports I have found out in a handful of hours online.
Moreover, my mom was working at Harrisburg Medical Center until just before I left for Korea last summer. If she was still employed there, she would’ve been on her way to work during the tornado, or already there. Sure, finances have been dismal for her since, but I can’t help but think that God knew what he was doing.
Really, looking at this storm footage, and hearing about it from my friends in family Stateside, I have more to be grateful for than I knew.
With that said, another storm front is moving through Friday, with possible severe storms. I’m praying that they don’t get a double dose of what happened today.
But also, pray for those affected by the tornado. Both towns I call home have a long road of recovery, and people have grieving to do. But this could have been a lot worse.
And to all my beloved reading back home, I’m not there physically, but I’m with you guys.