It was an April afternoon in Tuscaloosa, AL and I was asleep as I had worked the previous night shift at the hospital as a nurse. My husband, Dan, was in the office studying for finals. There had been several tornado warnings that week, but nothing had come of them so we didn’t think much of the fact that there was another one that day. Dan heard windy sounds getting louder and louder, ignored them at first, and then got a distinct feeling that he needed to find safety. He ran into our room and grabbed me and we took cover in the bathtub. The power went out, our picture frame fell from the bathroom shelf, and what sounded like a train pummeled over us. It lasted only a few moments and then it started to rain, followed by an eerie silence.
We sighed with relief that we weren’t hurt and it didn’t seem too bad. We exited the bathroom to find the entire roof of our second-story apartment was gone. The walls had crashed down and everything was crushed. The bathroom was the only part of our house that still had a roof. We looked out the window to see our car was destroyed. As we went out to see if there was anyone we could help, we found a young woman lying in the street, unconscious, with large open wounds and barely breathing. We tried to call 911 but no phones were working and we couldn’t get any vehicles out as trees were blocking the road. There was nothing we could do. I held her helplessly as she took her last breaths.
Every side of our square-shaped apartment building was completed leveled to the ground but ours. There was even a bathtub in the middle of the courtyard. We walked away from the wreckage with only a couple of things in a backpack. We were dumbfounded as we contemplated how our lives had been miraculously spared and that our first child – which I was pregnant with – was safe.
The Tuscaloosa, Alabama tornado of 2011 was the second deadliest tornado in United States history.
The days and weeks that followed were some of the most humbling and honestly, joyful, times in my life. I was able to bear my testimony of God on national news in an interview with Wolf Blitzer. We were taken in by friends and cared for so lovingly. All the little things I used to worry about suddenly didn’t matter anymore. School was cancelled for my husband and I had time off work so we spent every moment of our days cleaning up, serving, and helping. We banded together with our friends, who became like family. We showed up at church on Sunday in our jeans and t-shirts, formed groups, and went out and worked all day.
Everything we had was lost, but we gained so much more. We were living and witnessing true application of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The goodness of others and true Christlike love was incredible to witness. Looking back on that time, I don’t remember the feelings of fear and loss. I remember the peace I received, the brotherly kindness. I remember learning, growing, and giving and receiving service.
Why does Heavenly Father Allow This Destruction to Occur?
It’s heartbreaking to witness what is happening because of the recent hurricanes. We may wonder, why does God let this happen? Let’s learn from the unimaginable trial Abraham went through.
“Brother Truman G. Madsen once asked President Hugh B. Brown of the First Presidency (1883–1975) why the Lord would put Abraham through the experience of being asked to sacrifice his own son. Obviously God knew that Abraham would be willing to do anything God commanded, and if that was so, why did the Lord put him through such a test? President Brown answered, “Abraham needed to learn something about Abraham” (Joseph Smith the Prophet , 93).
“God already knows what we’re made of, but perhaps He wants us to learn what we’re made of. I think we would all agree that we learn more from our tough times than from our easy times. Sometimes bad things happen to good people,” explained John Bytheway in his article, Five Scriptures That Will Help You Get Through Almost Anything.
Going through, or even witnessing, something as devastating as this storm causes us to stop and appreciate our lives, our loved ones, and the little things we may have taken for granted. We hold our loved ones a little tighter, take offense less easily, and reevaluate what truly matters in our lives. These trials, devastating and difficult as they are, help us to humble ourselves and grow closer to God.
If we let them, tragedies can be turning points in our lives where we recommit ourselves to living a more righteous, intentional life.
A Touching Hymn
Let’s learn from the stirring hymn, “Brightly Beams Our Father’s Mercy,”
Brightly beams our Father’s mercy
From his lighthouse evermore,
But to us he gives the keeping
Of the lights along the shore.
Dark the night of sin has settled;
Loud the angry billows roar.
Eager eyes are watching, longing,
For the lights along the shore.
Trim your feeble lamp, my brother;
Some poor sailor, tempest-tossed,
Trying now to make the harbor,
In the darkness may be lost.
Let the lower lights be burning;
Send a gleam across the wave.
Some poor fainting, struggling seaman
You may rescue, you may save.
Our Father’s mercy is always beaming from his lighthouse. We just have to open our eyes and hearts to see it growing brighter as we move closer to it. He weeps along with us as these tragedies occur and is there to aid us in our healing. Whether we are suffering through the physical storms of life or the inner storms we all pass through, He is there.
What Can I Do?
You may not be able to physically help during this disaster, but we can all help. We can unite in our faith and pray for our brothers and sisters who are suffering. We can spread light and the love of Christ through our words and actions to others. Be a light on the shore to those who are struggling. Even a small glimmer in the darkness brings great light. As we are prayerful and take time to ponder, we will know what we can do to help. Who do you know who has “eager eyes, watching and longing for any light along the shore”? If you are the “poor fainting, struggling seamen”, look for the lighthouses in your life. Reach out for help. God’s light is there.
We have all been rescued. Who can we help save