So on Monday, I geared up for another outing. Laced up my boots, grabbed a rain coat and some other gear I might need for the day’s work. I was going to my old stomping grounds.
This was going to be different, though. Instead of hitting the trail or bushwhacking through wild underbrush, I was going to explore something different that nature had wrought. I was going to report on what Monday’s tornado had done to the town where I used to live.
It’s not often I stray off topic on this blog. In fact, I think this is the only time I’ve done so. But this week’s events warrant it.
I lived in Tecumseh a little over 10 years ago, in an older neighborhood surrounding Barnard School near downtown. As I drove into town, I parked near where I used to live. And then I started walking.
To my left was the first house I lived in when I moved here, near Second Street and Main. Unscathed.
Upon walking a little further, I ran up into the second house I lived in here, just off Jefferson Street. The home was undamaged, but there were a lot of tree limbs down all over the property. Both homes have storm shelters (I’ve taken shelter in both), and I’m sure the people who lived in these places now took cover when the tornado came through.
But the rest of my old neighborhood, as well as the one directly south, didn’t fare nearly as well.
One home, owned by Shirley Bryan, had a corner of its roof smashed in by a neighbor’s carport. Nearby, a trailer home was toppled. The smell of natural gas was in the air.
To get to the worst of the damage, I had to get off the streets and head down the alleys. They were chocked with debris from fallen trees, remains of buildings and downed power lines. Needless to say, I’m glad I wore my boots.
After a few minutes, I’d made my way to Highland Street, a residential thoroughfare on Tecumseh’s south side. The tornado pretty much followed the east-west route of the street as it tore through the neighborhood. Here, whole homes were destroyed. People wandered around, checking in on neighbors. Others sifted through the remains of the places where they used to live.
One home, owned by John Moore, was a total loss. In describing the tornado’s approach, one of Moore’s daughters, Samantha Starry, nervously said “It was scary as hell.”
She then pointed out her car, buried beneath the limbs of a fallen tree.
Moore kept his humor about him, making light of the situation even though his home was wrecked.
“We couldn’t get the air to work,” he said. “Guess I don’t have to worry about that now.”
I don’t get down to Tecumseh very often anymore, but the two years I lived there were pretty good. It was a bit surreal to see the place where I once drove, jogged and lived in such disarray.
My heart goes out to the folks who lost so much in my former hometown. Being there again reminded me of good times I had living there. Seeing the suffering of those who live there now reminds me that for all of the beauty and grandeur nature offers us, it can also be a malevolent force, one that can destroy property and take lives in an instant. You don’t have to be in the backcountry to learn that.