What do you mean we had a tornado…..and miracles

by Jody Armstead on Wednesday, September 7, 2011 at 10:12pm

Ricky don’t lose that number, it’s the only one you want…… Send it all in a letter to yourself.

So, right from the get go. I was having my typical Sunday afternoon nap, or trying to, when the phone starts ringing off the hook. Our phone rings four times

Blown apart Evaporator Plant

before it goes to the answering machine, so I kept coming to and drifting off again. The bloody thing wouldn’t stop!!! Needless to say I was a little sharp with the caller. Turns out it’s a girlfriend of mine telling me Goderich was hit by a Cyclone again. Get the truck in there and see if my business is all right and check on my friends. Ya, ok, I’m thinking and grab my camera and a few extra batteries to take pictures of the knocked down trees. I had NO clue it was a tornado until I hit the road block coming in from the north end of town.  A guy that had been turned back was driving by us slowly telling us we had been hit by a Tornado!!!!!     Bloody Hell………I’ve got a darling old girlfriend that I’ve known most of my life that just happens to be a senior and a widow and her kids are both living “away.” So first priority is to get to her. I text her son and tell him to CALL his mother. Rip out the hwy to see if I can get in by Benmiller. Absolutely NOT and it’s at about this time I start to see. The great big hundred year old trees blocking the road, are you kidding me? Pull another three point turn because people haven’t got a clue what to do and beat it all the way around to Holmesville passing car after car.

Right between the fire hydrant and hydro pole.

Road blocks set up on the east side of town. I’m not having it so deek around behind the beer store and it’s probably about that time that I start to get a little scared.  Not sure what I’m going to see in here but knowing that I have to go. Driving around chunks of random concrete on the road, looking at the blown apart evaporator plant with half the metal sheathing just gone, water spraying up on it. I make it around downed hydro poles and just random “stuff” everywhere and get to the old girls house. She is fine and talking on the phone to her son. The only damage behind Victoria Public School, a tree across the end of the road. She’s fine……..crazy old puss. We spent the rest of the night walking the streets trying to get to my shop and checking on some of her friends and the rental property. If I never see some of those sites again….it WILL be too soon. I drive home late that night probably still in shock and will be for another three days.

Random = Transformers

At which point I just happen to see a post from my daughter in law  on Facebook with a link to a guy looking for people to come in and help. It’s a strange feeling, not knowing if you’ve got a job to go to tomorrow. A week from now, or a month from now and I am completely at ends with myself>>>>>> trying to walk around acting “normal.” So the post from Luke Elliott was actually a God send. I sent a reply to him. ” Old Girl with a half ton pick up, but I do have an eighteen year old son. Use me, and I don’t tell many men that!” The First post was what he called a “meet up and clean up” so I rouse Thomas out of his bed Thursday morning and we head in to town to meet up at the Beer Store. I’m shy, so it’s a funky thing to go around and gather up one of my girlfriends who’s house is in the worst hit part of town and ask her to come and help. The original group only had three trucks and three chain saws and about ten people. And NO plan. NO plan doesn’t matter in a disaster apparently.  We went as a group to the first place we thought needed help. They needed a front end loader so couldn’t help…..but wait, one of the guys knows a girl across the road.  The front lawn is covered with downed trees. Frankly, I hadn’t intended on taking the cover off my truck box but changed my mind in a hell of a hurry once I started to understand the scope of the thing. Four days after…….and it still looked like that?  We proceeded to cut and haul for the next three or was it four days.

Every time I went to the chipper yard I tried to take different people with me, just so they could see that in action. We would pull in past the guy at the gate  who let me know, in no uncertain terms, that they were accepting clean brush ONLY. No roof shingles, no building material of any sort. Started getting a fun relationship going with that guy, who was from the Environmental Protection Agency. I think he did seven days straight from 7 in the morning til 7 at night. I think he said he lived in Markham. We got to the point where I’d yell out the window to him……” same deal”……..and he would laugh. Ya, lady, same deal. Offered to share one of the two coffees in his hand the second morning. People kept bringing them for him.  I never got that young man’s name but wish I had in order to send him my thanks. Thursday morning when we first started hauling there was a mountain of brush. At the end of that day there was a mountain of mulch. Great big red dump trucks that you had to try to keep out of the way of.  They were doing the Lions share of the work. Little pick up trucks and people with ramshackle trailers using anything they could find to haul. You couldn’t always get in every time you took a load so we started parking off to the side and hopping out to help others unload. Some people had that down to a bloody science…..and Teresa, if you’re reading this, you know who you are!


Images from that first day of the Goderich Tornado Clean Up Hub. The man giving me the one second finger as he roared the biggest front end loader right past my bumper to push the brush back. With your cigarette hanging out of your mouth, thank you for not crushing me and for always giving me hand signals and a big bright smile and the odd wink. Thanks to the boys that came in my pick up truck and worked your butts off so all I mostly had to do was be the Driver. To all the people that would stop by where ever we were working and asking us if we wanted water or sandwiches, or home made muffins. Whenever my faith in humanity falters and for the rest of my life, I will always remember you……. each and every  one! The lady that put her hand over her heart and said thank you with tears in her eyes. “You would do the same for me.”……..  “I would,”  she said. That random American One Dollar bill in a yard I helped to rake. Taking it to the owner of the house who said ” finders keepers”…….lol. Ya, no, I laid it at his feet.


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