Sunday, December 18, 2011

Two Kinds of Tours

It is officially day two in Alabama and after a night of getting to know each other and recovering from long flights, we woke up refreshed and energized. This is definitely a good thing after the day we had. We met Marie, from the United Saints Recovery Project in the morning and she told us a little bit about what happened on April 27, 2011. After some background knowledge and facts we got into the vans and took a tour around Tuscaloosa to really see the damage that still exists within the city. At first, I did not think it was going to be that bad, until we passed the hospital and I looked to my left and saw how much damage there truly was. Houses were torn to pieces, and families just up and left their home. Marie first took us to a middle class neighborhood that was in the process of rebuilding.
As we drove down the street and saw some houses being rebuilt, there was this house on the left that was just bare boned. The outer infrastructure was gone, but some walls and things like the fire place was still intact. We got to stop at the end of the street and get out to take a look and it was something that I have never seen in my life. When I walked up to the house it became surreal. Broken china lay on the once kitchen floor, teddy bears were thrown across the yard, forks were stabbed into the wall, and sinks were in rooms where they did not belong. She showed us a middle school that had no roof and the lunch room was ripped apart. We then went to an apartment complex where the owner did not have insurance and it was in the lower income part of the city. There had been minimal cleanup to these apartments. These were not only one of the saddest things I have ever seen in my life, but also one of the worst. People just left everything in these apartments and I could only imagine that it was because they couldn’t come back after something that bad happening to them. Even the street to this apartment complex was still filled with rubble and debris. Looking at all of this made me have more compassion for these people than ever. The damage was so surreal. I think it made a lot of us emotionally upset knowing that it has been about eight months and still people haven’t been able to remove their own home’s debris. Seeing how many houses that are for sale that have yet to have any debris removed was amazing. People just left everything behind and it is sad to see that some of these people in this city were left with nothing.

After our tour around the city we switched it up on a lighter note and went and explored the University of Alabama. We got a tour in the football stadium and that was great. Once that was finished we went back into the center of the town and stared to pick up debris. We worked for about two and a half hours and cleared the front and back yard of a house. Seeing how much was on the ground still and how many roof shingles scattered about was simply amazing. This trip so far has been such a rewarding experience and it is only day two. To be able to help people who do not have the resources or ability to do it themselves is the most rewarding thing I think I could have done. To know that people are so thankful for the help is so rewarding and just to see smile on their faces is the best feeling. Seeing everything we saw today just reminds me that I am thankful for everything I have and that it truly can be lost in a minute. You have to be grateful for everything because I see this city and think of how many memories were lost and how people never really thought it could happen to them. I cannot wait or be more proud to help out this city within these next few days we have here.

Sara Ellison is a junior at Eastern Illinois University and a member of Delta Zeta Sorority.

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