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  • Christine Parlett

Photographer's blog with only one photo... a story in words Beavercreek, Ohio #daytonstrong

One photo, that was all I took. One photo, says more than a million could. One photo, was all I could wrap my mind around. One photo, was louder than any words. One photo, inspired me.

There were no words this past Saturday afternoon. My husband and I set out on a journey, one that I won’t soon forget. He got a call from a co-worker that help was still needed. Still, after nearly two weeks, there were families that desperately needed help. We gathered our work boots, gloves, baseball hats, and set off in search of someone in need. What we found was beyond words. Destruction, devastation, desperation, and total shock.

Twelve days had gone by and some houses looked like the tornado had ripped through less than 24 hours before. Twenty miles away, my home had no sign of any storm. Twenty miles away, every piece of neighborhoods were flat, unrecognizable, and forever changed. The people that we met that day forever touched my life.

The first house they were already wrapping up for the day when we arrived. Aside from helping place tarps over some garage contents, we were of little assistance. The homeowners were remarkable. They had been at the “site” working since the sun came up that day. Their garage was completely flattened, barley held up by the contents. A classic car, a boat, and a motorcycle, spoke of homeowners that loved to enjoy life. They loved to feel wind in their hair and simply be in the moment, happy, peaceful, and thankful. This day was no different. While I expected to find homeowners that were melancholy and filled with sorrow, these beautiful folks were just grateful and thankful. Fun even, joking and laughing, finding the joy in the moment, no matter what life had thrown at them.

From the outside I assumed their home would be able to recover, but then I stepped inside the front door. I took a brief tour hearing about the bathroom that saved their lives. Walking up the stairs once inside the door, seeing the sky. The roof had literally been peeled off the main level with little left above us but the clouds. The loss of grandma’s china and mother’s crystal was eerily felt when looking at what use to be a dining room. The table that belonged to the homeowner’s father was now covered in shingles, boards, nails, and broken glass. My heart shattered for this family that lost beloved heirlooms. Those items given by generations before, entrusted, and to be handed down to the next generation. Gone. The house was broken, the garage was broken, but they were still standing…#BeavercreekStrong!

We knew we were needed somewhere, so four of us got in the truck and set out into the neighborhood. We came across a small ranch house where there were only two men cleaning up brush in the front yard. We pulled up, rolled down our windows, and offered to help. John said he would gladly accept our offer as the rain would be moving in soon. We parked, and got right to work. We did our best to joke and be silly to keep the mood light. The level of sadness that was permeating from everywhere was hard to ignore, so we did our best to lighten the mood and be the emotional support that was so desperately needed. Then John told me the story of what had happened twelve days before. John was no story teller, very blunt and matter of fact, although after witnessing this it’s easy to understand how someone’s emotions could be so calloused.

This house did not belong to John, it was his father’s house. He and his wife lived in this house for over forty years. This wasn’t just a house; it was their home. John’s father was 89 years old and was suffering from dementia. The elderly man was sitting in his easy chair in his living room during the storm that would change his life forever. Trees in the yard crashed through the roof, and collapsed around him. I can only imagine what could have been going through his mind as he sat there, confused, with his house closing in around him. My heart aches for this sweet man that I have never met. He was watching the house he called home be ripped apart, but I am sure it was of little consequence. His heart was already broken. John’s father lost his wife of 69 years only three weeks prior. His world had come crashing down literally and figuratively. I wonder of the well being of this man that I will likely never meet. I pray for him and the hundreds like him. Men, women, children, grandparents, even the pets that live in these houses. How will they rebuild, will they ever be able to sleep through a thunderstorm, will they be okay? I am praying that this one photo will help paint a picture for you. The one photo that I was able to take, not because I couldn’t, but because seeing the destruction first hand was so soul-shaking I didn’t even remember how to take a photo. This is a time when I can’t paint a scene using my camera, so I am using my words.

When the clouds have cleared and the days have passed, who will still be there, after the storm?

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