Archives - Religion: Page 7
Author: paul carson (Wed Feb 14, 2007 7:11 pm)
After the Destruction, Seeking a Time to Heal
Katlynn Grimes, 13, hugged Mary Miller at a service yesterday at the First Baptist Church in Paisley, Fla. A friend of Katlynn’s died in the storm.
By LYNN WADDELL
Published: February 5, 2007
PAISLEY, Fla., Feb. 4 — The members of the First Baptist Church here clapped enthusiastically after their minister and fellow parishioners played “Turn, Turn, Turn,” the 1960s hit song by the Byrds. It was a lyrical sermon that resonated with those affected by the tornadoes that took 13 lives in the Paisley area of Central Florida.
Pastor Larry Lynn preached in the remains of the Lady Lake Church of God, which was destroyed in last week’s tornadoes.
“A time to kill, and a time to heal, a time to break down, and a time to build up,” the church’s drummer sang as the minister, the Rev. John Roszak, played the electric bass.
Mr. Roszak said he had fretted that the sermon would be a challenge but found the song’s lyrics, which come directly from Ecclesiastes, fitting.
“For those who were lost, I would like to say ‘hello’ from heaven,” Mr. Roszak said to applause from his congregation of about 150.
About 10 miles west of the church, the community of Lake Mack was the hardest hit by the tornadoes that ripped through early Friday, killing 13 people within one square mile. The landscape where homes once stood was left a stew of branches, boards, glass and clothing amid a cemetery of scalped trees, their skeletons holding mattresses, insulation and tin.
The tornadoes touched down in four counties, leaving a total of 20 dead, scores injured and more than 1,500 homes destroyed or uninhabitable. Nearly 1,200 of those homes were in the Villages, a newer retirement community more than 30 miles west of rural Lake Mack.
A pocket of Lady Lake, which borders the Villages, was also hit hard, reporting seven deaths. Gov. Charlie Crist attended church services on Sunday with the congregation of Lady Lake Church of God outside what was once their house of worship but is now a mangled clump of steel, insulation, church pews, tree limbs and other debris.
As some parishioners of First Baptist Church in Paisley sang and listened to music and the minister’s words on Sunday morning, across the hall other church members prepared boxed lunches and organized food, clothing and toiletries donated by community residents.
One of the church workers, Katlynn Grimes, 13, said she had lost her friend David Downing, who was killed along with his parents. She found out about his death from her school principal and said she had trouble accepting it.
“David was like a brother to me,” Katlynn said. “I cried Friday and Saturday, but not today, yet.”
Red-eyed and disheveled, Priscilla Smith and her mother, victims of the storm, nibbled on pizza as church workers brought out a gallon of sweet tea and boxes filled with food for them and their neighbors.
“A lot of people don’t want to leave their place because they think someone might steal their stuff,” Ms. Smith said, bracing her head with her hand as she leaned on the folding tables set up in the church’s fellowship hall. “My neighbor won’t leave. His son isn’t even talking. I had to make him go with me this morning so he could get a shower.”
Ms. Smith, who has lived on Lake Mack her entire life, said her family had fared better than most. The walls of their house are still standing, though the structure was moved from its foundation. The roof is gone, as is much of the furniture. Still, Ms. Smith said: “My neighbor has nothing. He’s staying out there in a makeshift shed. I was able to uncover an air mattress I had and gave it to him.”
Lake Mack Drive, a dead end, is tucked off a county road that borders the Ocala National Forest. About 200 people live around the lake that gives the community its name. Lots are one to three acres, and several neighbors had horses. A few chickens and a rooster still pecked for food in the wreckage on Sunday.
Like much of Lake County, the area is populated by natives and an influx of retirees and commuters seeking the serenity of rural life. Deland is only 15 miles to the east, and Lady Lake, about 35 miles to the west. “We’re kind of like a bedroom community to a bedroom community,” Mr. Roszak said.
The tornado left a relatively small pocket of devastation amid otherwise untouched landscape. Less than a half mile from where victims picked through flattened wreckage, others enjoyed a normal Sunday afternoon. A teenager raced his dirt bike next to an untouched home. Music could be heard through open doors. Horses grazed underneath giant live oaks dripping with Spanish moss.
Nevertheless, the entire community felt the storm’s impact.
At Forest Hills Store, where photos of hunters hang from the wall, residents talked of the tornadoes as they stood in line to buy six-packs. “Are they letting you back there yet?” Michael Farmer, a construction worker, asked. “I lived back there until six months ago, and I still have friends there I want to help.”
The country store’s clerk, S. M. Bari, who also lost a friend to the storm, said he had had a constant string of customers since the tornado, repair workers and residents coming in to buy supplies.
Down Lake Mack Drive, Marilynn Fischer gazed over what was once her home.
“We don’t know each other very well,” Ms. Fischer said of her neighbors. “But if we needed help they would come over. They did the other night.”
Two of her neighbors pulled her and her husband from the wreckage early Friday morning. She was in the bathtub, pinned under her husband, who was crushed beneath a washing machine.
“I still can’t believe it,” Ms. Fischer said. “It still really hasn’t sunk in. It probably won’t sink in until after we get it all cleaned up.”
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