May 032011

It is a grim, gusty and rainy day here.

I’m writing this as we near one week since the devastating tornadoes and storms ripped through my home town and my home state.

I wanted everyone to know how much I appreciate your well-wishes and voices of concern. I was out of town when this happened. My family is fine. My home is fine. Everyone I know made it through. But I wanted to post some pictures and talk a little bit about what I’ve seen, what I’ve felt, and what I think.

My God. Why?

Like you, I saw the destruction from a distance. I saw it in the news media. The worst of the storms hit at least an hour away from where I live. Tuscaloosa, of course, was mangled beyond recognition. Other small communities, like Pratt City, have been nearly removed from the map altogether. But when I got home on Saturday night aroung 10:30, I undeniably felt the silence of the shock. It was an eerie feeling that even a horror writer cannot describe. It was the edge of something. It was the end of something. It was awesomely and horribly final.

I pulled into the parking lot of my apartment complex and found huge logs piled up. I found crushed cars, as you can see in the photographs. Evidently fifteen or so massive trees went down, and many cars were demolished. My place is absolutely fine, no wind damage at all. And this is the weirdest part, and the random nature of destruction: I left two cigar butts in an ashtray on my balcony, and in all this maelstrom from Hell and the falling of trees those cigar butts did not move one inch.

This morning I took my camera and went out. I could have taken hundreds of pictures like the ones I’ve posted. These were taken in the parking lot of my complex and within two miles of where I live. Old trees were uprooted and the root systems eight and nine feet tall. Roofs were shattered. Cars slammed down so hard their tires exploded. Tangles of power lines fell to the earth, and had to be reeled out of the way so people could get to these communities to help…and let me tell you, guys, that if you don’t believe in miracles you need to wake up because the death count was way low from what it might have been and should have been in all this destruction.

Interesting picture from a local church. “Was God In The Storm?”

I will not begin to set myself up as someone who could answer that question. All I know is, for all this suffering and death and broken hearts and broken bodies…people are still moving forward with hope, even in the silence of the shock.


As I understand it, people staggered into local hospitals carrying dead children, and with their own arms and legs broken. People are still missing. The atmosphere has changed. Cell phones are not working correctly…the signals are erratic, and the voices float in and out as if you’re speaking to someone underwater. In an instant, lives were forever changed and destinies altered. And remember…I am an hour away from the main scenes of horrific carnage and absolute destruction, where entire blocks…and neighborhoods, really…were scooped from the earth and scattered before the storms.

Last night I lay in bed and listened to the wind. A soft breeze, then. In it I could distantly hear a siren. I wondered if someone’s heart had not finally taken too much, and stopped beating in the silence of the shock.

I understand also that many, many household pets are missing. Just gone. And many pets wander the streets searching for houses and masters that are no longer there.

Please pray for the people of my home town and my home state. We are suffering here, in so many ways. But in so many ways also we have come together and are starting to dig out of this. Things are forever changed, yes…but people move forward because there is no going back.

I will remember this for the rest of my life. This, again, is beyond the ability of a horror writer to describe. There are no words for this. There is no way to adequately express this, even between people who have seen their homes destroyed and their children and loved ones taken from them in an instant.

There are no words.

There is only silence.

God bless you for your help.



(Click on the images to view larger versions.)




  9 Responses to “The Silence Of The Shock”

  1. Rick, so glad to hear you and Sally are okay. Laurie and I were wondering how you weathered it all. Hope this proves the exception to the rule, though weather patterns seem to be getting more and more violent. We’re preparing for extreme storms tonight here in Pennsylvania. Let’s all hope for the best…

  2. Hello RM,

    Thanks for sharing. Storms narrowly missed us as well thankfully in NE, Ga. As I saw the storm coverage on the news, with the 3D imaging of the tornadoes, I couldn’t help but to visualize them as anything but these monstrous behemoths straight out of Lovecraft trampling all underfoot. It was the first time I had ever seen storms on radar as being anything but flat colored shapes.

    BTW, I can’t see the photos you took on this page, only text.

  3. I just moved down here last year from Illinois…all this time and I never saw a tornado until last week…in my rear view mirror…it was surreal (sp?)…never want to see another. All I had happen was no power…I am very grateful, yet I wonder, as I am sure many of us do, why was I spared and others not? It makes you appreciate this life so much more.

    Glad you and yours are ok…


  4. Hello Rick and Sally. I discovered your post today and I’m glad to hear you and the family are okay. We were in the same path of this storm and it was a tense night for us as well (I was up til 3 am). Fortunately we are okay, but these days every storm is a possibility and your description of the reality is our worse fears. I’m sorry that your area was so devastated and glad to hear that people have come together to help. Keep the faith and thank you for sharing. All my best, Dave

  5. I followed the link to here from the SIWC blog (I remember meeting you at the Surrey conference last fall. You were so gracious and pleasant, although you did give me a hard time over flying home first class. 🙂 ). I’d forgotten you live in Alabama. I am thankful you and your home made it through OK. I’ve been looking at the photos (yours and others) and reading the stories, and I find them simply astonishing. If this had been fiction, nobody would believe it. Many prayers for all those affected by the storms.

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