HARRISBURG, ILLINOIS – 3


Monday, March 12, 2012

Up in the morning, breakfast at the LCC and, at 8 AM, off to the big (make that humongous!) RV that housed the OB staff.  There, I finally got to meet the rest of Louise, whose voice I had encountered on Saturday.  The person and the voice were a very good match: nice, pleasant, efficient.

Together with several other newbies, I filled out a personal questionnaire and a “no-matter-what-happens-it’s-all-my-fault-and-never-OB’s” form, and then OB began to hand out work assignments.  I ended up on a team with Adrian, the ex-RM (that’s radioman, for you landlubbers!) I had met at the LCC.  We were assigned to a small residence on Main Street where some additional minor work needed to be performed after Home Depot had done most of the heavy lifting.  (Yes, Home Depot, and there is a story behind that.)

Adrian and I drove to the address with an OB supervisor who introduced us and explained what needed to be done.  It was a double-wide trailer that needed a new faucet, some minor plumbing, a vent in an inside door, a bit of cleaning up and, if possible, adjusting the air flow through the heating ductwork.

Once the supervisor was gone, Adrian and I divvied up the tasks, figured out what was needed and went off to buy parts and supplies.  One of the tasks was in the master bath, which was accessible only through the master bedroom, occupied by a young woman — and a very young baby.  We emitted the requisite amount of oohs and aahs at the baby, which was just celebrating the first week of its life.

And then it clicked – the story, I mean.  This was the “tornado kid” who I’d heard so much about.

When the tornado had struck, mom was already nine months pregnant.  Like so many others, she’d only had time to get out of bed and take a step or two toward the safest area of the house.  The tornado proceeded to pick the trailer up and drop it again from a height of about two feet.  Fortunately, mom and a young daughter remained unscathed.  Mom, however, went into labor soon thereafter, was taken to hospital and eventually delivered a healthy baby boy.

The story was apparently so compelling that the local Home Depot folks teamed up and proceeded to swarm over the trailer.  They not only repaired most of the damage but also provided all new appliances and other things, gratis.

So here I was, gawking into a couple of big blue peepers and mumbling somewhat stupidly to the mom as she told her story: “Ah, I see.  Oh.  Ooooh, so you’re the one!”  And mom was gracious enough to permit both Adrian and me to take a couple of pictures.

We were done with baby Kayden’s home by noon.  After a bag lunch, we were sent off to the distribution center.  This was an ex-supermarket called The Mad Pricer where supplies were being received and distributed.  Stuff of all kinds was coming in by the semi trailer load, and the many volunteers there had to sort the goods and bring them to the front half of the center to be set out for distribution.  I turned out to be the canned fruit-and-veggie man for the rest of the afternoon: first as the assistant to a couple of local ladies and, when they went off duty, all by myself.  I must have brought in, organized and distributed three thousand cans in the course of the afternoon, and since no one yelled at me or wanted to bash me on the head with a can of sweet yams or potatoes or string beans, I think that I did well.

The distribution center closed at 6 PM and I returned to the LCC (dang, I keep thinking of COMSECONDFLT and the USS Mount Whitney every time I type that).  The supper was (naturally) very good, and what could have turned into a long evening was considerably shortened by the emergent requirement to fill up a semi trailer with the hundreds of bags of clothing and scores of mattresses stored in the LCC’s gym.  This was, I think, stuff collected by the church and was to be shipped elsewhere, possibly Henryville in southern Indiana.

The loading, which was accomplished mainly bucket brigade-style, kept us busy for over two hours.  I was very happy when the semi finally departed, because by the time we got done, my back and arms were seriously hurting, and I wanted nothing quite as much as a prolonged soak in a hot tub.

Unfortunately, the LCC couldn’t provide a hot tub, but they did have showers (and free soap and shampoo and razors and towels), so I at least managed to get clean and fine-smelling.  After a late raid on the communal kitchen fridge, I finally ended up in the classroom that was my bunkroom, tossed around a while, listening to my bunkmates’ snores while entertaining them with my coughing, and finally got some sleep.

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About Michael J. Kubat

I'm a grumpy Czech-born clinical social worker who is vitally interested in the survival in the United States as a viable democracy and a beacon of hope for the rest of the world.
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