Editor's note: Last night, I received the following email from Laura Reinhardt, who is in Alabama:
The man sitting next me on the plane looked out the window as we approached Birmingham, Alabama. He pointed out the path of destruction left by the April 27 tornadoes.
“That’s the spookiest thing I ever saw,” he said. “It’s like someone took a giant vacuum cleaner to the earth.”
An aerial view of Tuscaloosa showing just how wide-spread the tornado damage is. © 2011 Laura Reinhardt/WV
Seeing it from the air and being kind of awed by nature’s power is one thing, but getting on the ground and seeing tin roofs curled up like ribbon, walls ripped away to reveal the inside of someone’s life, and then meeting people like 10-year-old Morgan Adams makes it all much more personal.
Morgan came to the house while I was interviewing his neighbor Connie McDonald. He told me about neighbors down the street who were worse off than they were. He’d been helping them to clean up the debris.
A fallen tree on the family's old Volkswagon Beetle, the car Morgan hoped to have one day. © 2011 Laura Reinhardt/WV
We walked outside to look at the tree the tornado had knocked over through the roof of his family’s kitchen. He said to me: “You coming down here doesn’t bother me, but people who just drive by and almost get in a wreck staring at us, that bothers me."
It’s true. There are people who drive by and gape at the damage, but it seems like there are many more people riding in the back of pickup trucks offering bottles of water or sports drinks -- people who are wanting to help.
Morgan likes to help too. He dug through the rubble after the storm to find the purple watering can his sister loved.
I asked Morgan if I could take his picture in front of the fallen tree, explaining that I hoped the pictures would help raise money for people in his community whose lives have been devastated by the fury of the tornadoes.
He said, “So if pictures are being taken in order to help, then snap away. [But] I’m really not looking all that good. I’ve been wearing the same clothes for three days.” The family lost most of their clothing in the disaster.
I don’t know what the future holds for Morgan. His grandparents’ home, where he’s lived along with his mother, brother, and sister, slipped off its foundation during the storm. It’s beyond repair. This family, like so many others, must make a new home.
Yet Morgan looked at me with a smile. “I just feel kind of happy right now. We’re all still alive."
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