This memory is written in a Haibun form. Haibun is a very ancient Japanese form used for travel notes and memoirs. Usually a few paragraphs with a relating haiku at the end. I have been playing around with this form for only a few months, but I find it fascinating.
I remember the tornado in 1998, Hall County, Georgia that ripped through at dawn. I was safe down in Atlanta and caught the morning news report with a cup of coffee in my hand. Back then I attended the Meeting for Worship in Atlanta. Almost trembling, I stood and addressed the end of the Meeting about the tornado. The only response I got from the Meeting was “Help can wait”.
I turned to my neighbors in our rather poor SW Atlanta neighborhood. They gave from the heart. My ten year old son and I drove to Gainesville with my husband’s ‘newish’ truck, the one with a paper license plate on the back. We got lost, stopped at a Denny’s and when the waitress heard we came with supplies, she refused to take our money. We got lost again, looking for the Salvation Army site. An old man insisted we follow his truck to our destination.
We weren’t supposed to go into the tornado area, but as we were leaving Gainesville to go home, there stretched between two radio kiosks was a big yellow banner: “Help Can’t Wait”. The sky was azure blue with clipper-ship-clouds floating by, peace after a terrible storm. My son’s eyes were enormous as he turned to me. “Mom, God is speaking to us. Help can’t wait, those Quakers were wrong!”
That day was filled with miracles: the police never stopped our truck. Our license plate had blown off. They waved at us. We saw the total destruction of a Nature Hell Bent on making a major disaster. We saw metal sides of trailers twisted like ribbons through denuded trees, baby strollers smashed on the side of the road, blue tarps over just about every house. Right next to total devastation were cows in a pasture peacefully grazing. Trees were gone, the landscape was a moon scape. Small debris fires were everywhere. Porta Johns were everywhere. We found the hearts of total strangers open everywhere. Thirteen people died from that tornado in Hall County.
A month to the day another tornado hit a toney part of north Atlanta, neighborhoods where many of the Quakers of the Meeting lived. They weren’t the working people of Hall County. These were the professors and lawyers, teachers, etc. of the Meeting. I wondered if ‘Help Can Wait’ applied to them.
Restored in the Human Heart
If we feel the pain