I took a road trip through Monson and Wilbraham today, towns eastward of Springfield and dead in the pathway of the tornado that tore up parts of western Massachusetts a week ago. I knew I was going to witness a whole lot of devastation going in so I tried to ready myself psychologically for the experience. Guess what? There's no way you can prepare yourself for what you'll see in the wake of a strong tornado. And I only saw a small portion of the destruction. Just imagine what it's like for someone who lives within that path.
In Monson the tornado came pretty much through the town center, taking out church steeples, walls, roofs on the school, stores and homes, trees, fences and whatever else it could tear up. The only thing in my experience I could compare it to was the town of Bluefields, Nicaragua in the wake of Hurricane Joan back in 1988. But Monson isn't the so-called Third World, it only looks like it. I can't even imagine what it felt like last Thursday when the sun rose over what remained. Words like devastation lose their meaning under such circumstances.
Doubling back and driving eastward toward Wilbraham I was again out of the path of the tornado and except for an occasional tree branch, everything appeared pretty much like always. Even as I headed into the town on Springfield Street past shopping centers, gas stations and all the rest, it was business as usual. But then I drove south a few blocks after noting a police chopper hovering out that way and the whole world came to an abrupt change. Given the denser suburban population of this area, block after block of modest single family homes, the destruction was magnified beyond belief. Here, I had absolutely nothing to compare it to. Nothing over twelve feet high remained. Tarps were everywhere, 360 degrees of total desolation. No tree left standing for blocks. Countless homes seemingly beyond repair. Emergency and utility vehicles everywhere. A few blocks north women are going to the tanning salon, guys are having lunch in sports bars. Kafka couldn't write this stuff.
I could go on and on about the contrasts, the seeming lack of connection between one world and the other even though they are all neighbors, just a few blocks apart. But hey, these are just words on a page. We are just that much more removed from neighborhoods where thousands of families live, blasted almost beyond recognition. How do I describe the indescribable? All that pain, all the countless lives, human and non-human, actually terrorized (as opposed to being told you're terrorized) by the massive destruction of their homes. Who can tell that story?
Tomorrow I'll be delivering supplies to Springfield. I'll try describing it.