It’s amazing what a difference a year can make

I have had this post open for hours. Multiple times over the past few days. Every time I try to put to words how I feel about 11/17/13, I get teary-eyed and can’t quite get the words out. But I’m sticking through it and writing this post. More for me, than for you guys, so thanks for reading along.

The frame around my mom's front door stayed standing.

The frame around my mom’s front door stayed standing.

November 17 started like any other Sunday in the Beantown Baker household. Hubby and I were up to our eyeballs in Thanksgiving preparations, but we slept in and then made breakfast together. I had a massage scheduled for 2pm. I went to my massage for an hour of blissfully relaxing ignorance.

When I got home, I didn’t catch on right away that something was wrong. Hubby met me at the door, which was rare, and once I got close enough to him, I could tell something was wrong. He spoke very deliberately and calmly telling me there had been a tornado in Washington and my mom’s house was flattened. Then he said “Andrew was at her house and he’s in the hospital”. My heart sank as a million horrible things raced through my mind about my baby brother.

This was the second day after going through rubble. Believe it or not, we had made a lot of progress.

This was the second day after going through rubble. Believe it or not, we had made a lot of progress.

I instantly called my sister to get the scoop and she was a mess too. Come to find out, I really had enjoyed pure ignorance during my hour long massage. During that time, various members of my family had gone through agonizing minutes of terror in various forms.

My dad, who lives 45 minutes away from my mom’s house, had driven frantically to her house since Andrew wasn’t answering his phone. My mom had been out of town and missed the whole ordeal. When my dad, stepmom and step siblings got close to mom’s neighborhood, many of the roads were closed. They parked about a mile away and ran through a field. The field had clothes, furniture, and other debris scattered throughout and it was muddy. It was a tough run. There was more confusion once they got to my mom’s house because Andrew was no where to be found, even though his car was parked in mom’s garage.

While this was going on, my other siblings were in contact trying to figure out how to help. They posted on Facebook in hopes that one of Andrew’s friends knew where he was.

The bathroom where Andrew took cover. Nothing was left of it...

The bathroom where Andrew took cover. Nothing was left of it…

And of course there’s Andrew’s side of this story. He had been sleeping on my mom’s couch in the living room after a night out. He doesn’t remember all the details and it all happened so fast. For whatever reason, when Andrew woke up to the sounds of a tornado, looking outside to see a tree flying straight towards him snapped him in to motion. He ran to the bathroom to take cover. Everything around him was blown away. The bathroom vanity and sink literally rolled right over him, leaving deep cuts in his back on their way. I’m not at all a religious person but it’s a pure miracle he survived that tornado.

The diagrams posted later on the news showed that the center of the tornado went right through my mom’s kitchen, about fifteen feet from the bathroom where Andrew took cover. All of this happened while I was getting my massage. Once I got caught up on what had happened from my family, my instinct was to jump in the car and get there as soon as possible.

But, of course, the tornados were moving our way and it wouldn’t have been safe to leave. Waiting the 5 hours for our tornado warnings and watches to go away so we could leave was agonizing. Then we had a 5 hour drive to get there.

Looking across the street from the front door.

Looking across the street from the front door.

The next week was a blur to me, as I’m sure it was to my mom and Andrew and everyone else touched by any sort of disaster like this. We went through as much of the rubble as we could at my mom’s. Some of the things from her basement were salvageable, but due to a broken pipe, a lot of it got ruined anyways.

Today is the anniversary of the tornado that ripped through my mom’s neighborhood. We were very lucky that Andrew survived with only some cuts and bruises. A year later, my mom has moved in to a new house with her new husband. Andrew has some pretty gnarly scars. I haven’t been back to Washington since last year but many of the houses have been rebuilt.

My dad helped to organize the Tree Recovery Washington Facebook page and a tree planting day a couple weeks ago. Hundreds of trees were donated by nurseries and volunteers planted them for anyone who lost trees due to the tornado (insurance doesn’t cover landscaping costs). The town of Washington is moving on. I think people are dealing with it in their own ways. While my sister Lindsey wasn’t there when the tornado hit, she did lose her home too. She got a tattoo of the key to the house to help cope with her pain. My entire family is completely changed because of this tornado and the aftermath. Some relationships are stronger than ever.

Lindsey's new tattoo

Lindsey’s new tattoo

As for me, I decided to write and post this as a sort of therapy. This is one of those things you never think will happen to your family until it does. And somehow, someway, you get through it. Thanks for listening and thanks again to everyone who donated to my mom last year right after the tornado.

Here’s a video that shows some footage of the tornado, recovering, and Washington today.

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3 Responses to “It’s amazing what a difference a year can make”

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    1
    Ashley @ My Midwest Table — November 17, 2014 at 9:55 pm

    Oh, Jen. Wow, I am so sorry to hear this. My heart breaks just looking at these photos. I can’t even imagine the emotions you and your family have felt this past year. I’m glad you decided to write and post your thoughts. It’s so important to get those feelings out—and it always helps knowing you’re not alone.

    Tornadoes are horribly scary. We have our fair share here in Nebraska, and I work in disaster education and preparedness. Even so, they can occur so quickly and can cause so much devastation in such a short amount of time. And the recovery process certainly takes time. Sending a virtual hug your way!

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    Jane George — November 18, 2014 at 8:37 am

    What a strong and resilient community, so much has been done in only a year. God Bless to all who have toughed it out and rebuilt. So happy for you and your family for surviving this.

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    Joan Epperson — April 11, 2015 at 12:39 pm

    Wow! Thank you for sharing. My prayers are with you and all involved.

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