On April 28, an over-55 RV park west of San Antonio was shattered to bits during devastating wind, rain, and hail storms, including an EF1 tornado that touched down nearby.
Although we’ve never stayed at this park, it is affiliated with the Escapees RV Club, and as Escapees members, we felt called to lend a hand to this branch of our RVing family. (Coincidentally, it was this time last year that we spent a month in service at the Escapees Care Center in Livingston, TX.)
We happened to arrive in the area (our home base) the week after the storm, and were able to spend a couple of days working on site. Many volunteers had preceded us, so by the time we arrived on Day 9, much of the large debris had been placed in dumpsters already.
There was still more to clear, and we did a lot of that, but we found that one of the most valuable services we could provide was listening. The residents needed to tell their stories from that terrifying night; needed to tell us how much they’d been helped by volunteers; how they appreciated losing only things, not lives.
Almost all the residents we spoke with said they were thankful they didn’t have it as bad as some of the others. We saw what they were dealing with. Just who were these others who had it worse?
Maybe it was because we weren’t on the scene until several days had passed, but we were surprised by the community members’ senses of resiliency, positivity — and even humor. They were in it together, holding each other up, cracking jokes about taking margarita breaks (at 10:30 in the morning), and making light of getting the job done, just slowly, due to age and associated infirmities.
The level and amount of destruction we saw certainly filled our minds with our own what-ifs.
What if we lost our home tomorrow? With our full physical capabilities and financial stability, we’d start over, and eventually recover, with ample time ahead of us to appreciate the lessons learned and the blessings of a new beginning.
But what if it happened when we were closer to our 80’s, when neither physical nor financial strength are assured? When it might be only one of us left able or alive to deal with the aftermath of a natural disaster? How would we begin again? How could we?
No answer. I have no answer to that. These folks probably didn’t either, and I’m sure they handle their “one step at a time” better during some hours than others.
One gentleman needed our help moving some furniture out of his ruined RV and into the outbuilding on his lot. He was unwell. He was living alone.
And yet, he offered to compensate us for our assistance.
He insisted, and as the hand holding his wallet began to tremble, we realized that turning him down would likely add to his grief rather than alleviate it, so we told him we’d be stopping at a Dairy Queen for treats on the way home, and that if he’d like to pay for those, we would gratefully accept a few dollars. That earned us a smile.
I don’t think he knew that it was Mother’s Day.
I also don’t think he knew how he was going to get through the next day.
But rewarding his helpers was something he could do, while facing so many things he couldn’t.
Surviving such devastation takes more strength and patience than I can imagine, and so does enduring the lengthy and confusing insurance claims process, not to mention the hassle of finding new cars and RVs in which to start over — to start over at age 70 or even older.
I’d also argue that it takes strength to accept assistance. Our hope is that we helped the people of the Alamo Area SKP Co-Op/Lone Star Corral feel just a little stronger this week.