This week was the anniversary of the deadly Xenia, Ohio tornado.
I was 7 months pregnant with my daughter and was home on my day off from nursing home care, trying to decide how best to protect a mama cat with a newborn litter I was fostering, since tornado warnings were being broadcast for my town, Dayton, Ohio. I was thankful the most violent part of the storm bypassed our area, but had hit Xenia, Ohio very hard. I received a call from the Upjohn Home Health Care company for whom I was working as an R.N., and was asked to travel to Xenia on the 4th, to help with triage, first aid, tetanus shots, and anything else that was needed. I will add that I did not tell my doctor I was going, since he surely would have tried to stop me. When I drove into that town, I was absolutely shocked. I'd viewed the photos on TV, but seeing the devastation in person was overwhelming. I was dispatched to an armory where people had been directed to go for treatment and for instructions on how to sanitize their water to make it safer for consumption. I saw mostly minor injuries - scrapes and bruises, feet punctured by nails, and a few broken bones. Most of those injuries had been received when people had been sifting through the piles of rubble that had once been their homes, searching for anything that might be salvaged. Much of what I did there was offer emotional support. Victims who had lost their homes needed to tell their stories of survival. Those who had lost friends or family members also had stories to tell. Some were experiencing survivor's guilt. Why had their loved ones been taken while they themselves were spared? The photo here, of the house with the back of it blown away, was one of the first houses I saw. It looked like an eerie version of a doll's house. The beds still had linens on them and most of the furniture remained untouched. When I went to the front of the house, I beheld another sad sight. There was a large German Shepherd dog, lying partially in and partially out of his dog house, but deceased. There was no visible trauma. He looked as if he was sleeping. He and his house had most likely been blown to their final resting place from another yard. It's so strange the things we remember during tragic circumstances. I don't know if I was truly of much help that day. I did what I could, but nothing could ease the emotional trauma of losing friends or family, and nothing I did or said would ever bring back anyone or replace homes. I was completely composed while I administered first aid that day, just as I'd been taught to do. I went back the next day and did the same. It wasn't until I was driving home that I allowed emotions to waft over me. It was a time I will never forget.