We mark time by how long something happened before or after the storm. We give directions based on where landmarks used to be. We rely on Facebook to catch up with people we don’t see as often anymore since we lost our main meeting place, the Pig.
Just when we’ve almost forgotten that we live in a tornado town, we drive past Main Street and must face not only the destruction but our memories as well.
Healing is a complicated, seemingly never-ending process. I don’t think I’m the only one who spent the better part of a year looking for it in the wrong places.
I decided soon after the storm that the best way I could help my neighbors recover was through my work. Several frustrating months and one deflated ego later, I stopped trying to save the world through the printed word.
Looking back now, I see how at times I tried a little too desperately to paint a rosy picture that didn’t exist then and still doesn’t.
Maybe I was too close to my subject. Objectivity is a neat concept, but nobody tells you how to maintain it while covering the place you love after it has been wiped off the map.
Although I question some of the editorial decisions I made in the heat of the moment, I hope the people of Cordova know how hard I tried to do their stories justice.
Bylines come and go, but some of the conversations I had with my fellow Blue Devils after April 27 will stay with me forever.
I still believe in the power of communication. Talking and writing are part of the way that we make sense of our collective experiences – our pain, our anger, our grievances, our questions.
I’ve heard that people who survive something as traumatic as a tornado have to share their story over 40 times before they can let it go. I don’t know who was on the receiving end of my 40th, but I consider it an honor if I have been involved in someone else’s.
Cordova isn’t just a beat to me. That has never been more apparent than while I have been working on stories for the April 27 anniversary section that will be published on Friday.
I understand that the emotions of some tornado survivors will be too raw for them to get through the whole section, but I hope those who do find something that will bring them peace and renew their hope for the future.
I am not as naïve as I once was. I am well aware that one day I may be raising my son in an unincorporated community formerly known as Cordova.
However, I chose an unapologetically positive angle for this collection of tornado anniversary stories because of people like Keri and Josh Bagwell.
The Bagwells lost their first home on April 27, but today they have a beautiful new one that overlooks the city.
Right now, the view isn’t too pretty, but Keri told me that she believes the city will rise from the rubble and that she and Josh are going to watch it happen from their front porch.
Her comment made me think of the first picture I took on April 28.
Before I captured any of the devastation, I got a shot of the sun coming up on the street where I was raised. In the days to come, that street would be guarded by soldiers with big guns and at times I would feel like it was the end of the world.
But somehow the sun always came up the next day.
The road to recovery is long and filled with hurdles that threaten to extinguish the last ounce of hope most of us possess.
The world wonders why we don’t just give up. In Cordova, we believe in trying it one more time.