Pieces of the Heart ~ What we found in the debris

tornado 069We went to Moore, Oklahoma a few days after the first tornado in order to help my mom and dad and their neighbors with debris clean up and repairs.

Excuse me while I take this call ~

Excuse me while I take this call ~

Thankful to be alive!

Thankful to be alive!

The dump trucks were a constant flow in and out of the neighborhood. The system was to haul the debris to the median, the trucks loaded it and took it away.

It was an overwhelming task. Millions of little pieces, buried deep in the wet grass and bare soil. Debris was wrapped in the shrubs and tucked beneath rose bushes. Styrofoam, insulation, roof shingles, splinters of 2 x 4’s, paper….wait…. these were book pages.  Music. Photographs. Dog tags. The first discovery of something legible, made us aware  that we were not just cleaning up debris, we were picking up the pieces of scattered lives.  Broken hearts.  Fear.  And they were scattered for miles….

John 3:16 For God So Loved the World ~

John 3:16 For God So Loved the World ~

Dolls ~ left there for the owner

Dolls ~ left there for the owner

The Tribulation Force

The Tribulation Force

debris money debris block tornado 102 debris piano tornado 029-musictornado debris pic

debris poker

Gone With The Wind

Gone With The Wind

Debris Trucks ~ Coming and Going

Debris Trucks ~ Coming and Going

Miles of Debris

Miles of Debris

As we followed these trucks out-of-town the day we left, we knew they were not simply hauling trash to the dump, but rather they were burying pain, secrets, and pasts.

Be nice to people. You really never know what they may be dealing with today. ♥

Here’s to Oklahoma for keeping the faith~

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67 Responses to Pieces of the Heart ~ What we found in the debris

  1. I’m thankful your folks are alive as well. It caught me off guard to see a Canadian twenty dollar bill!

  2. Paula this is beautiful! You should make a photo book out of your images. My favorite is the piece of Bible verse; what a fitting scripture! I also love the Gone With The Wind record – that is ironic and (I’m sorry) just a bit funny. 🙂 Again, so thankful that your folks are okay (well at least physically). Love you guys!

  3. What a lovely post. And the photos of the debris really tugs at the heart, knowing that pieces of people’s lives are truly scattered all over. Thanks for sharing!

  4. bulldog says:

    This is heart wrenching… people’s history snapped from them in a matter of minutes… it reminds me so much of the flood that went through our house in 2001, when we lost everything… the thing I most miss is all the photos and scrap books of our children when they were young… we were left with no photos of them when babies etc… but we never had to bury anyone so we felt we had actually not lost anything… but it is still devastating and I feel for all those that have lost the lot… so glad your parents are alright …

    • I am so sorry for what your family went through, Bulldog. I guess it is true that we discover what matters most when things like this happen. Several places in Moore are collecting the photos found so that hopefully people can reconnect with them. ♥

  5. Jeannette from the CA coast says:

    Your photos speak volumes about the devastation. Yes, they are just “things”, but they were part of someone’s life. I can’t even imagine losing everything I own – so very sad. God bless the survivors as they put their lives back together and prayers for those who lost loved ones.

  6. I agree with bulldog. It’s the photos I would miss the most. As long as the people are okay that’s the main thing but of the “things,” photos would be the most precious to me. Almost everything else is replaceable or wouldn’t be missed for long. Very sad to look at these pictures in your post but thank you for sharing them just the same.

  7. dderbydave says:

    Thank you for this post. We watched the news in silence over here in England and your pictures really do paint clearly the effect it had on so many lives.

  8. This is so heartbreaking. It’s almost eerie to see “Gone With the Wind” among that debris. It’s like some strange sign.
    Really glad your family is ok. 😀

  9. utesmile says:

    It looks devasted and I can imagine htere is lots to drive away. Lots of material things can be replaced, but memories and emotional things lost in the storm, can never be replaced. I admire the people who just get on with what has to be done. Glad your family is ok and have their lives, the most important bit! ♥

    • I guess you have no choice but to pick up the pieces and move forward. But there must be grieving in this process. And heartache. We are so thankful that our family and friends are safe! ♥

  10. renae says:

    Your words and photo’s have captured a small window for those outside the devastation to peek through and taste the sadness as a result from the tornado’s……yet still display the ray of hope for recovery and the great spirit of the folks in Oklahoma! —

  11. While looking at these photos, I couldn’t help but think of all my things, such as books, pictures, keepsakes the children have made and given to me over the years… what would I do if everything just blew away one day… My heart breaks for these people. Don’t get me wrong, I know it’s human life that’s MOST important!
    But it’s also hard to imagine what it must be like to lose everything…

    • It’s funny….when we prepare for shelter before a tornado warning….we make sure we have meds, important docs, water, dogs/leashes, shoes on our feet…..and of course, my purse (!). Essentials. You are right though. I take so much for granted and while daily “stuff” can be replaced…photos and special items cannot. Yesterday they showed a volunteer that found a couple’s marriage license and her detailed story of their courtship stapled together. The owner was the happiest person in the world to be reunited with this soaked document. So I guess….maybe it’s not just stuff?

  12. Dena says:

    The photograph of the photograph got me in the gut the most. Maybe that is a landscape someone dreams about. Maybe they’re dreaming about it now.

  13. My goodness, Paula! How touching to see the debris and to hold pieces of lives and story in your hand. The happy faces show relief and gratitude! I did love the broken Gone With The Wind record. Isn’t that the truth! oxox

  14. mimijk says:

    There are no words to adequately express my visceral and emotional reaction to your amazing pics. And my heart and prayers go out to the courageous people in OK. Long may you thrive!!

  15. zannyro says:

    The images that you’ve shared are so touching…and strike a chord with us all. ANOTHER important thing that they do….After Moore and later, your images, when we got word that we were going to get some of that storm system …. my husband, for the first time, did not just simply go off to bed and brush off the possibility of danger. He came back and forth for hours “getting a drink of water”…but getting an update each time. We knew where our shoes were, I had packed up meds, dog leash, flashlights, keepsakes,the list goes on. I hate that your parents had to go through that and am so glad that they came through it….I don’t know if there is any comfort to be found in the fact that other people are now paying serious attention to the weather or not…but you all have helped me. I finally can feel that if I give the word, he will take shelter, and he means the world to me.

  16. russtowne says:

    Thank you for your poignant post and reminder that lives can change forever in an instant.
    Russ

  17. The photos are both beautiful and heartbreaking. Your photos set the scene so well, it’s unreal to see a families history strewn about.

  18. Walking amongst the debris must have been weird. Sort of like on another planet or in another time or place. I am so glad your parents are OK.

  19. jmgoyder says:

    Heartbreakingly powerful photos.

  20. Truly heartbreaking. Some of the things you found were amazing. John 3:16! That brought tears to my eyes. And the Gone with the Wind record. You couldn’t have made that up. Thanks for sharing this. Beautiful post, Paula.

  21. Seasonsgirl says:

    Wow all those things you found… the little block, torn sheet music, and that John 3:16 verse… powerful. Thank you for sharing and keeping you all in my prayers 🙂

  22. artsifrtsy says:

    The process sounds a lot like how they remove snow in the northwest – scoot it to the middle out of the way and haul it off once you get traffic moving. That Gone With the Wind record is one for the ages – serendipitous.

    • That’s exactly it….. QUITE a process. We were impressed with their organized chaos. Seriously. They were all working SOOOO hard. There were “feeding” teams set up on one of the medians just to feed the DOT employees. They stored their grills at my folks house in the evenings and my folks were fed really well 😉

      That Gone with the Wind….who’d a thunk it?!?!?! 😉

  23. Gallivanta says:

    Extraordinary images. We have lived through extraordinary times in my city (earthquake related) and it really is impossible to explain how it was, how it is and how the small things pierce the heart. And the memories, oh the memories that disappear with the physical and material changes. I love the smiles at the beginning of your post.

  24. tchistorygal says:

    What an amazing post, and such insight. I am sorry for your family’s losses, and for the many people who lost things in the tornadoes. It is hard to replace things you need and love. Your pictures beautifully help you tell the story.

    People are so resilient, though. My brother’s house burned down a few years ago – not completely, but enough to destroy most of their things. He was a packrat, and loved old things, my mom’s couch from the 60s, things we grew up with – all gone. It was devastating, but it also gave him a time to start over. When it comes right down to it, when we leave the world we go through our last tornado, and not one thing goes with us! It reminds me, that as much stuff as I have accumulated and love over the years, none of it means anything in the end, and most of it won’t mean much to anyone else, either. I can enjoy it while I have it, but it’s stuff. Even pictures, and I’m fortunate to have a few pictures that are very old and treasured, but they are stored in more than one place – my heart for one, and now digitized for another. Almost everything else is replicable – or not!

    God bless those who have been through this recent tragedy, and I know they are taking stock of what is truly important, as your caption says. “Thankful to be alive.”

    • You comments have nailed it in so many ways! We were in Moore yesterday and were amazed in such a short time at how much progress is being made. Yes, there are still piles of broken cars, here and there, etc…..but everyone is working to make it happen and it refreshes the soul to see all God’s people working together. ♥

  25. People helping people is one of the sweetest of all life’s miracles. Thank you so much for caring.

  26. Pingback: Look Who Got a Fraidy Hole!!! | stuff i tell my sister

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