Dauphin Street in Mobile, Alabama is the quintessential Old South. Hundred-year-old live oaks embrace and shade stately 19th Century mansions. And even with cars buzzing into downtown, it’s easy to envision grand carriages carrying cultured ladies to their tea parties.
Mobile was a short stop on our way to a New Orleans getaway, which was Terri’s birthday gift. From previous visits, we remembered lots of historic architecture, and this was the reason for our drive down scenic Dauphin Street.
Suddenly, in the flash of an eye, there was a knife-edge line separating sleepy and peaceful from chaotic and ravaged.
On Christmas Day, at 5:00 PM, an F2 tornado ripped through Historic Mobile, leaving unbelievable destruction in its wake. And we had just stumbled into evidence of its passage. To use a British phrase … we were gobsmacked.
Thanks to 24/7 weather coverage, and reality shows that present weather as drama, tornadoes seem like an ordinary occurrence. Spring and summer bring a constant supply of grim images of tornado damage in the midwest. But the sobering surprise for us in Mobile, was how different this incredible destruction is when experienced face-to-face.
Somehow, witnessing firsthand the missing roofs, mangled trees, and debris strewn streets and lawns made it personal. We pictured an avid gardener grieving in her now destroyed flower beds. A broken front porch swing hanging from a detached roof meant a missing wave of a neighbor’s hand.
While Mobile City Employees worked to clear debris and pathways, somber students cleared out lockers at the severely damaged Murphy High School, foretelling of an uncertain semester at a different campus. It was heartbreaking, and we will never again look at photos of catastrophic natural disasters in the same way.
Travel always provides new experiences which change our perspectives. Luckily, we’ve gotten to this point in our lives without personally experiencing a catastrophic event. Now we realize how lucky we are. Our wishes for a better 2013 go out to the folks in this devastated Mobile neighborhood.