I received a call last Tuesday to go to Alabama and help with clean up efforts after the recent tornadoes hit the area. On Saturday morning at 5:30 am, a few friends and I were on our way to Leeds, Alabama, equipped with chainsaws, wheel barrows, rakes, and a lot of water.
This was an effort organized by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and we had a large group of volunteers. My group consisted of approximately 40 people and we received several addresses to go and help the people whose houses or yards were affected.
Once we were finished with one house, we would help the neighbor next door and so forth, until late in the evening. Most of the work consisted of cutting down trees that had fallen down on people’s front and backyards and cut them in small pieces and transport them to the road side so that later it all could be picked up. The sounds of chainsaws created a constant buzz throughout the area, along with the sound of cracking wood.
In one day, we were able to help about 8-10 families. I’ve never seen that many trees down. What was most surprising to us was the size of those trees! Sometimes it seemed we would be cutting down a tree forever and it just would not end. People were very appreciative of the fact that we had come from neighboring states to help them. They didn't feel so alone. My thought was that if this happened to me, I would want the same help. For those of us who live in Atlanta, we know it was a close call. Birmingham, Alabama is only a three-hour drive away.
By the evening we were exhausted and changed our plan from sleeping in tents to sleeping in hotels. Some of my friends used their travel points to get two rooms. That was the best decision ever made. A hot shower and a real bed were priceless, but more priceless were the many handshakes we received and the kind and sincere words from those people saying, “Thank you.”