Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Where To Start? The November 17, 2013 Washington, IL Tornado

Where do I even begin?  In a million years, I never thought I would be writing about this.  For those that follow the blog, but aren't connected with me on Facebook, the community that Jamie and I lived in before we moved to China was hit by a devastating tornado this past Sunday.  One report I read said that over 400 homes were affected and entire neighborhoods were leveled.  But, the miracle of it all, is that only one fatality has been reported.  It could have been so much worse.

Washington, IL was our home for 10+ years before we became expats and moved to China.  Jamie and I moved to Washington and into our first home (a teeny-tiny 1 1/2 story bungalow) 6 months after we were married.  We met great people, found a wonderful church and began building our life there.  Some of our closest friends are in Washington.  The kind of friends that walk through adulthood with you; new jobs, babies, adoption questions and paperwork, a move overseas and everything else life throws at you.

In 2009 we had 2 young children and we were still living in our bungalow house.  We felt a little cramped and it looked as if our opportunities to move overseas with my husband's company had all fallen through.  We bought our second home in Washington, a bigger 2 story home, in an established subdivision with no cookie-cutter homes and lots of mature trees.  We thought we were staying put!  Surprise, two years later we were presented with the opportunity to move to China and we took it.  Some expats sell their homes when they move overseas, but we chose to keep our house and rent it while we were overseas.  (It was supposed to be a short 18-24 month assignment.  We're now at the 2 1/2 year mark.)  It was our plan to return to our house on Westminster.  While we've been in China we've been very fortunate to have some renters living in our home.  

Before I show you pictures, please know that our renters are safe and from what we know our neighbors are safe as well.

This is what our part of Westminster Drive looked like a few years ago...

I am not sure of the location of these exact photos, but our subdivision looks something like this now...

This is what the front of our house looked like before...

This photo is taken from the vantage of looking out our front door.  The green is our roof which now sits in our front yard.

This is LBean in our newly remodeled main floor bathroom shortly after we moved in 2009.

This is what remains.

Living room before we moved.
Living room floor now.

 Dining room before we moved.
Kitchen before we moved.
What remains, you can see the flooring and the row of bushes in the background is what we could see from the window of our kitchen sink.

Looking down the basement steps.

Backyard before we moved...

EBean enjoying our first picnic at our new home in 2009.
This is what the backyard looks like now.  You can see the round bushes on the right side of the photo and match them with the ones in the picture above.

Jamie and I lost a house and that is it.  Our family is safe, our pictures, clothing and other "things" are either with us in China or in storage.  Moving forward, our troubles are very minimal.  Friends from church, MOPS, another mothers group, neighbors and so many others have the huge task of sifting through what remains of their homes and trying to collect all that they can.  My heart is breaking for them.

Many people have sent me messages and asked what they can do and how can they best help people.  At this point, unless you have a connection to a specific family, I think monetarily supporting established groups such as the Red Cross and Samaritan's Purse are probably the best way to help.

As for our family and what remains of our house, I don't know what is next.  I think we sit and wait.  I have contacted our insurance company and they will call us back, some time.  I don't know if we will need to return to the US to look at the property.  I really don't know.

I am so grateful to our friends Steve & Dawn who literally walked up to our home and, not knowing they were talking to our renter, asked the house number of the pile of rubble they were looking at.  They had found our house, talked to our renter, and took the pictures you see above.  Had they not done that we wouldn't have known for over 24 hours how are renters were and we would have no idea what remained of our house.

Thank you to Shanna, my mom, my niece and everyone who texted me and tried calling me in China.  I woke up on Monday morning in China (14 hours ahead of Illinois) to many messages and missed calls because they didn't want me to find out from Facebook what had happened to our house.  Jamie is in Singapore for the week for training, so I called him as soon as I could to let him know what had happened.  

I've spent the last two days on Facebook just reading everyone's posts, watching videos, looking at pictures and trying to feel connected even though we are so far away.  And, for now we wait.


  1. Kara and family, We are praying for you. This is so unbelievable that such a tragedy could happen that it's mind bending. So thankful to hear tenants are OK. Buildings can be replaced and a new life begun. Please be comforted in knowing how much you are being thought of and that Emergency Personnel are doing their best to restore order, etc. in Washington. Your pictures are a treasure and so wonderful that you have them. Love and prayers from us!

    1. Thank Sandra! Please continuing praying for our wonderful town. You are absolutely right that our pictures are such a treasure.

  2. Kara, I can't imagine how you guys must feel so far away from all that has happened to your house. We were very lucky to not have had any damage, I will be praying for you guys. I am soooo glad that all of your neighbors are safe!!!


    1. Shawn, I am glad that your house did not have any damage. It is very strange to be so far away, yet impacted directly. Yes, we could not be more relieved that everyone is okay!