When the chainsaws stop

Katie Cline, Editor-in-Chief

Without the chainsaws roaring, the electrical trucks blocking the road and the safety vest-clad volunteers up the streets, Ninth Avenue almost looks like home again.

Almost.

If you drive down the avenue, you’ll find yourself enwalled on either side by piles of debris: tree branches and trunks, roofing, random scraps of metal and the like. Then you’ll notice that most of the houses have white or blue roofs, and you’ll remember that they’re wrapped in plastic tarps. Finally, you’ll look up at the hillside and see houses you never knew existed and bare patches of mountain where trees used to be.

And you remember that it’s still home—just not the home that you grew up in.

For three weeks, Jacksonville looked like a war zone: police and volunteers from every part of the state, the Salvation Army and Samaritan’s Purse stationed in church parking lots, organizations handing out bottled water and hot meals to people who had nothing—some of whom still have nothing. It was like a Red Cross commercial that you didn’t sign up to be in.

And, the truth is, we can say “#JSUStrong” all day, but the people affected by this storm—the students, professors, and staff who lost everything, the community members who lost homes and precious belongings—are not going to be strong every day. Losing everything hurts. It’s stressful. You don’t know where to start because everything needs to be done at once, and one company is telling you that it will cost tens of thousands of dollars to fix your house, and that’s money you don’t have, but your insurance company won’t get back to you, and your kids have to go back to school, and the university needs you to come back to work, and you still can’t find your wedding album from 37 years ago, and you’re afraid it’s ruined.

So now we’re “back” to work and school, but not really because departments are scattered across town and in different cities, and we’re being told new things every day, and nothing makes sense because we can’t get a straight answer from anyone, and we’re trying to find a rental house and move what’s left of our home of 23 years and get ready for graduation and make time for friends we may never see again—and it’s hard.

And it’s okay to be mad about it.

I’m mad about it.

I’m mad about everything: that the tornado hit my house, that I can’t just worry about my family and my cats and my dogs without being pestered and told that I can’t take my grades, that I can’t choose which of my two majors I sit with at graduation, that just being in the house I grew up in makes my lungs hurt because there’s so much mold.

I’m mad that the chainsaws stopped.

Because I thought when the chainsaws stopped, we’d be back to normal.

But the truth is, we’re not. And we won’t be for a long time.

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