Thursday, January 5, 2012

A House Pulled Down is Half Rebuilt

Change is always difficult, whether it's anticipated or unexpected. It can be as small as a new paint color on the wall, or as big as bringing home a newborn baby. Change though, I've found, is all about how you handle it. If you find the good in change, you're much more likely to have a positive outlook on life in general in my experience.

Even when that change is devastating.

This Christmas, I went back to Cullman for the first time since the end of April, right after an F4 tornado swept away entire blocks of downtown (blog post on that here). Last time I was there, I was helping Jackie pick up the pieces of her childhood home. 

I hadn't gotten the opportunity to see the rebuilding process, and was anxious to check out how it was coming along and how everything had changed.

Some of the change was extremely difficult to handle. I used to drive out past the Cullman Times on 278 East towards her house, and the road was shaded with huge old trees. There were beautiful old homes lining the road and I remember ALWAYS missing her house because I could never see her driveway until I had already passed by.

The haunting part about going down that road now is that there are no trees and no beautiful old homes left.

There are small reminders that homes used to stand in these open fields, like a mailbox and driveway to nothing, and front steps up to a plot of land.

Some of the change was powerful. It's like cutting your finger, and then putting a band aid on and letting it heal. There are always scars, but that doesn't mean you don't persevere and continue on with life, no matter what curve balls are thrown your way.
It's uplifting to see how a small community can come together and support one another through such turmoil. Homes and empty city blocks can be rebuilt. Trees can be re-planted. Glass can be re-installed and murals can be repainted. It reminds you of what's really important in this world, and that when one door closes another door opens.

Check out this mural - Cullman in the 1880's. It was damaged in the tornado, but now bricks have been put back on and plans are in place to repaint the missing pieces. The five buildings depicted include the Kinney Horse and Mule Barn, Cullman's First Fire Station, Werdt's German Restaurant, Dinckelberg's Santa Claus Store and the First County Courthouse - none of which are still standing today to my knowledge. I don't know the history of what eventually happened to these buildings, whether they burned down or were torn down and rebuilt (for all I know a tornado could have wiped them out). After their demise however, the people in the city moved forward and created another courthouse and another fire station, and rebuilt more restaurants and storefronts that the next set of generations were able to enjoy. 

 I can't wait to see what this new chapter in Cullman's history will become - new business storefronts, new homes, new church Sanctuaries and stained glass windows. I already know it's going to be beautiful, and I can't wait to take my kids someday!


  1. I used to live next door to Jackie and when I went to Cullman to help with cleanup the weekend after the storm, it broke my heart to see her house and my old one in shambles. When I drove down 278 toward Holly Pond over Christmas, my heart broke. My neighborhood, that used to be full of 100+ year old houses and trees, is almost barren. Whew, it was rough. It was weird (and hard) to see my church on the front page of the Wall Street journal after the tornadoes, but it's amazing to see how strangers have helped out in such a grand way.

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