We went to Tuscaloosa to meet up with a group of people, which included Aunt Jean, Cousin Teresa and her daughters Tera and Jackie. This group drove all the way from Riverside California to Alabama to help people in that town recover from the tornados. We got there a little before they did, so we met with the Pastor of a local church who had volunteered their kitchen to the group, as well as let them sleep in the church basement.
Tuscaloosa still has a lot of recovering to do. There are piles of tree branches and trunks that show work has been done, but there is still a lot to do. And some places look like clear parking lots, but we found out from the Pastor that buildings used to stand there. Some business have signs that say “We will be back”, which is encouraging. Some have already reopened by using a trailer, like this CVS pharmacy, which sits in front of the roofless store.
When the California people got there, they split into two groups; one went to repair a house, and the other used the church kitchen to make lunch for several work teams. One of the houses being worked on belonged to an elderly man who was a WWII vet, and he had lived in that house since 1955. Since he is 91 years old, he’s a little hard to rattle. The day the tornados hit he sat on his couch, watched one come up through the town, and didn’t move off the couch until it got close enough to blow out his windows. He wasn’t hurt, but the house was severely damaged. Volunteers are repairing it now and giving the inside a complete renovation. While his house is being worked on he is renting an apartment for his wife and himself, but he drives over every afternoon and sits quietly in his car, in the hot sun, watching the work.
The next day we drove to the Chula Vista Christian Camp, using it as a base camp while we worked at a nearby boys’ camp. Chula Vista volunteered their kitchen for the California contingency, as well as offering them rooms, and we rented a spot there for the RV for a couple of nights.
The boys’ camp was completely destroyed in the tornado, as well as the 2 houses that the owners and staff lived in. They are currently living with family and friends while the rebuilding is going on; one couple with 9 children are living in 2 rooms. But everyone has a positive outlook and works hard at rebuilding. While we were there the workers included the families, local volunteers, and 3 guys from the California group. Wednesday our cooks prepared a big lunch for the all the workers (turkey/ham/cheese wraps, chips, watermelon, salad, etc). Thursday they prepared a big breakfast (hash round casserole, biscuits and gravy, and watermelon), a big lunch (baked potatoes with chili, cheese, etc, fruit salad, chips, cookies, and watermelon) and a big dinner (pork chops, potatoes and gravy, green beans, potato salad, caesar salad, fruit salad, peach and apple cobblers - and more watermelon). Randy worked with the others in the kitchen, but by Wednesday evening I knew I wasn’t really helping there, so I worked Thursday at the camp. I now know how to install a doorknob, and there was a lot of painting I could help with.
When we left on Friday morning, Randy and I decided to drive to St. Louis and take our time about it. We stopped for the night when we got to Memphis because Memphis is home to one of our favorite BBQ places - Corky’s. We shared a rack of ribs, then got a second rack to go.
The next day we got as far as Sikeston. Since it’s home to Lambert’s, Home of the Throwed Rolls, we ate there for dinner and camped nearby. Lambert’’s is good food and they serve huge quantities. We were just too full to carry on!
We are back in St. Louis now. Time to do the full-time shuffle again, going through every cabinet and drawer, getting rid of what we don’t use to make room for what we have acquired, or want to acquire.