On the Rondarosa, we have such frequent phone and DSL problems that we’ve become good friends with our repair guy, Mike. Such good friends that we have his cellphone number.
I called him one day and left a message. He returned the call quickly. I was complaining about a crackling on the phone line. My complaint, it would turn out, was piddling.
“When you’re up this way, could stop by and check it?” I asked.
“Well, it’s gonna be about three weeks before I’m home. I’m down in Albany, helping out.” I love to hear Mike talk because he drawls like me.
“Is it bad down there?” I asked, somewhat casually, I’m embarrassed to admit now.
“Whoa, it’s terrible. I’ve never seen anything this bad.” He commenced to tell me all he had seen and the shocking sadness of it all. “One tornado set down and cut a 1-mile swath wide and stayed on the ground for 72 miles. It wiped out everything. Just over from where we’re working, there is one neighborhood that’s completely gone. It’s awful. I can’t even tell you how bad it is. You’d just need to see it. But in all my time of helping out in things like this, I’ve never seen anything like it.”
I was stunned. I consider myself a bit of a news hound. I knew that Albany had been hit and I had seen some footage on the television news, but nobody told us it was anywhere near that bad. I started sharing Mike’s story with everyone, and they all said the same thing: “Why hasn’t the national media been reporting this? How come we didn’t know it was this bad?”
I decided to check the facts — not that I don’t trust one of the best men that AT&T ever gave a paycheck to, but it was so hard to believe we couldn’t know this. I wrote Jim Hendricks at the Albany Herald, which, as a matter of fact and disclosure, was one of the first newspapers to subscribe to this column over 13 years ago (and all the newspapers in that chain carry this column) and asked him. This is what he said:
“The Weather Service said the EF-3 that hit Albany started inside Baker County and cut a mile-wide swath in places as it traveled northeast and eventually lifted near Abbeville. It traveled 71 miles in about an hour and 12 minutes and had 150 mph winds. I’ve seen block and brick houses/buildings that are now rubble. One 3-4-mile stretch of highway 82 east of Albany had power poles literally snapped in two. You can still see metal bent around trees.”
Mike was off by a mile. The tornado stayed on the ground, chewing for 71, not 72, miles. It probably feels like 300 miles to the people who live there.
A couple of weeks later, Tink and I were at dinner with the Foxworthys. Always the first with his hand up when help is needed, Jeff had scheduled a benefit show there. He was surprised I even knew he was going there.
“You’re doing a good thing,” I said. Then, I repeated the story of calling Mike and the story he told.
They didn’t know about the 71 miles of destruction, either. This makes me mad. My neighbors to the south have been in dire straits, and I didn’t know it because the major media is stirring the pot on other things rather than Americans suffering terribly. It’s gonna take years to recover from this, so they could sure use our help.
If I were a Hollywood person — which it has been well-established that I’m not because neither of us claims the other — I’d say to Albany, “Sending light and love your way.”
These folks need more than that. They need knee-bending, mighty prayer from a powerful God.
And if you can, send money.
Ronda Rich is the best-selling author of several books, including “What Southern Women Know.” Sign up for her newsletter at www.rondarich.com. Her column appears Tuesdays and on www.gainesvilletimes.com.