When Teresa Thaman heard how bad the storm was going to be, she, her daughter and her husband closed themselves in their bathroom and hid under a mattress, just like they’d done every other time a tornado warning had been issued. This time, though, was terribly different. The storm didn’t pass. The windows exploded before the roof tore off, piece by piece, and the wood in the walls cracked apart. Teresa and her family clung to the toilet and tub, unable to comfort one another or even hear each other scream. And as debris pounded the mattress and the suction intensified, she was sure they were going to die.
When the storm passed and the family emerged from a pile of wood and rubble, dirt filled their mouths, eyes and pockets, and the once varied skyline was leveled flat for miles. Family heirlooms, photographs, every piece of furniture and clothing they’d ever owned were all gone – taken in a matter of minutes by the 2011 Joplin tornado.
Life can change in a heartbeat. Accidents, serious illness, unemployment, divorce, acts of nature or the ill will of others… when your life is shattered by unforeseen change, one of the most painful realizations is that everything you’ve painstakingly built and believed in over a lifetime can be torn down in only a matter of moments. It’s humbling, shocking, and devastatingly painful. Feeling as though you’ll never be whole again, the idea of rebuilding feels like a daunting, impossible task. That, however, is exactly what we have to do.
It took months for the Thamans to receive the insurance money for their lost home, a house that they were only three years away from owning outright. And they would never regain their lost wedding photos or baby books, their daughter’s trophies, or her mother’s antique washboard. But they did buy a new house and begin the process of trying to make it a home, filling it with new items and fresh memories.
We can’t choose all of the circumstances in our lives, but we can choose how we respond to them. Yes, rebuilding a life can take years. Those years can be full of pain, embarrassment, confusion and struggle. We might even lose friends along the way, as you’ll see if you read the stories/links below. But like the Thamans, who chose to climb up out of the rubble and rebuild their lives, we can create a new life out of ruin. It might not resemble the one that we left behind, but with newfound strength, resilience and determination, we may also find that we can build a new life that’s worth living. After all, as Carl Bard once said, “Although no one can go back and make a brand new start, anyone can start from now and make a brand new ending.”
To learn more about the Thamans, read “I Survived the Joplin Tornado,” by Sarah Engler, in the October edition of “O Magazine.”
To read more inspiring stories about surviving tragedy and loss, see the links below.
Karen Weinreb lost everything when her husband was found guilty of wire fraud: her friends, her home, and her million dollar lifestyle. Through her loss, however, she gained immeasurable benefits. http://nypost.com/2009/10/04/how-i-lost-everything/
David Hoffman, filmmaker, discusses how he lost almost everything he owned in a fire that destroyed his home, office and 30 years of film work and passionate collecting. He looks back at a life that’s been wiped clean in an instant — and looks forward. http://www.ted.com/talks/david_hoffman_on_losing_everything.html