Some time soon, someone is going to come up with the final numbers.
The number of homes destroyed—those damaged beyond repair, those that can be salvaged and those suffering only slight damage. The total loss in dollars. The number of people displaced. The number of storm-related injuries, both serious and minor. Unfortunately, we already know the death toll—three—and hope that number does not increase. The number of school buses destroyed and the cost to repair or replace Page Middle School. The number of volunteers. The hours they worked. The meals they served. Et cetera.
The human tragedy caused by a freak of nature on Saturday will finally get sorted out and categorized and filed away as the Tornado that Leveled Parts of Gloucester.
The human touch—the sense of loss, the sudden feeling of vulnerability, the gratitude for acts of kindness small and large, the impulse to help—can easily be swept aside by these figures.
One Gloucester woman who joined the Newington Baptist Church cleanup team that worked on Shelly Road Sunday afternoon put it well. "It was overwhelming," she said, "to see the amount of damage. And it was humbling, the gratitude that the people showed because someone came to help them."
Overwhelming. As in,
Damage: Hard to comprehend. Disaster: Of a major proportion. People: So many displaced, injured, dead.
Assistance: Neighbors, organizations, churches—a community coming together, defining Gloucester at its best.
Grief: Lasting, shock, appalling losses, experiences.
Lingering impressions: Astonishing amounts of damage around a turn in the road, after passing through an area utterly undisturbed.
Traffic … onlookers … police … helicopters … news teams everywhere, elected officials inspecting the damage, assessing ways to help their constituents.
People helping neighbors and strangers; strenuous efforts to clear roads, lawns and roofs of fallen trees. Flashing lights throughout the night. Utter darkness from loss of power. A full moon coming out when the clouds finally cleared, shining down upon the devastation.
Food and shelter provided by churches and community organizations. Helping hands extended, looking for a place to assist. Gracious friendliness even among those most affected.
All the sights and sounds (it was truly like a freight train coming, survivors said) form a confusing and rather kaleidoscopic impression that only time and recovery will help to sort out.
One lasting need will be help for the victims. Please donate your time or your dollars to those organizations that leap to help others. They need your support now, more than ever.