Friday, April 29, 2011

Reba J. Jones of Pleasant Grove, AL

Reba J. Jones, 516 7th Ave. Pleasant Grove, AL 35127. It was a mailing label that I found in amongst the roses yesterday in our backyard garden. The label was still adhered to its waxy sheet, ready to be stuck to a letter or a bill that Ms. Jones needed to get out in the mail, something she probably kept, like me, in a drawer of her desk, with her postage stamps, envelopes and her good Walmart Thank You cards. But the label was dirty and tattered, and it was about seventy miles northeast from where it should’ve been…

I recall my first experience with a tornado. I was about four or five years old; Vicki, about six or seven. The radio told us we needed to seek shelter, so mom and dad took us down into the basement to wait the storm out. It was there under the glare of the bare overhead bulb that dad described what a tornado was. He wasn’t trying to scare us, he just wanted us to know what why it was important for us to go to the basement for this storm, when we didn’t have to go to the basement for other storms. The one thing that I remember most vividly was that Dad said if you are close enough to a tornado to hear it, it will sound like a locomotive coming at you. My only experience with trains was with the toy ones that my male counterparts played with at school. So in my child’s mind, I thought it was funny to think of hearing the sound of a choo choo train during a storm.

There are only two other memories that I have of that night. 1) At one point, as I watched a small trickle of water make it’s way along the dirt floor of the basement and heard the storm grow to a fevered pitch outside, the light went out. In the dark, I heard dad say, “Here it comes.” The next memory of that night was this: 2) Emerging from the basement at the break of dawn and seeing the path the tornado took around our house. I remember holding mom’s hand while walking around the terrace, thinking the snapped pine trees looked a game of Pick-Up-Sticks that had gone awry.

Now, I’ve been through other tornadoes since then: lots here in Alabama, and a few in the other places I’ve lived. I was around for the Palm Sunday tornadoes of 1994, which devastated Calhoun and Cherokee Counties, destroying the Goshen United Methodist Church while parishioners worshipped (Rick Bragg covered the story, which can be read in his collection Somebody Told Me). I was at a Radiohead concert at Red Rocks in 2001 when a tornado formed just beyond the Rocky foothills where I sat, and made its way towards downtown Denver…towards my Capital Hill apartment. But luckily, it changed course and missed the city. I don’t get freaked out by tornadoes like some folks do, but I do respect them, and head for the basement when one is spotted in the area.

Yes, if you are close enough to a tornado to hear it, it does sound a lot like a locomotive…an angry, mean locomotive, with sharp teeth that bite and rip, and with forceful breath that picks up houses, cars and anything else in its way when it inhales, and dashes those things to the unforgiving ground when it exhales. Which is how we ended up with Reba J. Jones of Pleasant Grove, Alabama’s mailing label in our yard. Pleasant Grove, Alabama was destroyed in Wednesday night’s storms, leveled by a mile wide tornado.

After it left Pleasant Grove, the tornado tore through downtown Birmingham and made its way up to Etowah County, Calhoun County, Cherokee County. While Eric reported breaking news from the Gadsden Times building, and I sat in our basement with our basementless friends Danny and Jillian from down the street, my dear friend Beth and her husband lost their chicken houses on their poultry farm, thereby losing their livelihood. Her father-in-law lost his home and everything in it, everything except the bathroom in which he hid…

I hope Reba J. Jones had a basement in which she hid Wednesday night as the tornado raged around her. I hope that if she didn’t have her own basement to go to, then she had a neighbor who did have a basement, and that she took shelter there. And although her personal mailing label being in our yard indicates otherwise, I hope that by some chance Reba J. Jones still has a house in Pleasant Grove. I just hope that Reba J. Jones is still alive…


rhondag said...

Hello. A friend just called to tell me he saw your blog post about our friend, Mrs. Reba Jones. Sadly, Mrs. Jones perished Wednesday evening and was discovered by her grown children the next day. She was a Godly widow and we are thankful she is no longer in pain and has been reunited with her husband in Glory.

La_Petit_Rouge said...

My deepest and most respectful sympathy goes out to you and Mrs. Jones’ family. Please know that Mrs. Jones touched lives in Gadsden, Alabama…that although we did not know her, she will not ever be forgotten by us. I cannot thank you enough for sharing this information with me.

Tim said...

Hello all, my name is Tim Jones, I am one of four children of Reba J. Jones. I am the youngest son. I have two sisters and one brother. Words cannot describe how much this story has touched me. For the Gasden people, I am totally touched by your statements as well. And to our friend Rhonda your first statement was very touching as well.
For the person who found my Moms mailing label, your story has just touch the heart of few, but I assure you there will be many more, I promise you.
May God Bless You!
Tim Jones

La_Petit_Rouge said...

My name is Carol York, and I am the author of both the story about your Mom’s mailing label and the response by La_Petit_Rouge to Rhonda’s statement. I started this blog site back in 2007 as a grad school project, and as a way of keeping all of my friends and family informed about where I was and what I was doing. As you probably well know, the Internet can be a blessing and a curse. It can eat up so much of our precious time…but it can also connect folks who otherwise would not ever have known of the other’s existence.

I struggled with the blog post about your mother. I knew that whoever Reba J. Jones was, she was clearly a person who had been impacted by this terrible storm…and as my partner Eric pointed out to me later, that she was someone’s daughter, probably someone’s wife, maybe even someone’s mother, and without a doubt, someone’s friend. I now know that she was all of these things…and more.

I also struggled with the blog post about your mother because I worried that I was being disrespectful to someone’s personal privacy, someone who again, clearly suffered loss in this storm, someone who may have not wanted her name to be on the Internet. But when God puts a name and address label in your rose bushes…well, I don’t know how much more clear a message could be. I could’ve written a letter to your mom to reach out to her. Would’ve been easy to have just pulled that label off of its backing, stick it to letter, and put it in the mail. But, in my heart I knew that if I sent a letter to the address on that label, the chances of Mrs. Jones getting it were probably not the greatest. So I blogged instead, with the hope that if Mrs. Jones didn’t see my blog post, then someone out there who knew her would. And that maybe someone would let me know of her whereabouts. So, I guess the words that I wrote in the blog were the words I would’ve written to your mom if I had sent a letter to her.

Tim, my heart is broken for your loss. Eric and I send our thoughts and prayers to you, your family and your friends. Thank you for the kind words you posted on my blog. And Rhonda, again, I cannot thank you enough for letting me know about Mrs. Jones. Our thoughts and prayers are with you also.

rhondag said...

Hi Carol. You are so right about the internet being both a blessing and a curse. Many times I have seen its curse, but in this situation, I see the true blessing that it can be. Your story has touched Mrs. Reba's family. Thank you for your comments and for the initial post. Without it, the family would not have known Mrs. Reba's impact on your life. I think this gives Tim, in some small way, some closure to know that his mother was thought about and cared about by someone who didn't even know her in life. I didn't want to give out too much information in my original comment since we had not yet told Tim, but I do now want to say that Mrs. Reba touched many lives. She lived a long life and raised 4 children who loved her, had many grandchildren who miss her, and is remembered by countless friends. My husband, Jeff, and I grew up with Tim and his wife, and we knew Mrs. Reba well. She will always be remembered as a sweet Christian lady. Thank you again for posting your story. I do believe that God's hand was in this and He carefully placed that mailing label somewhere He knew it would be found and cared for. And thank you to our friend who googled yesterday to check for Mrs. Reba's status in this storm. Without that, we would never have seen this and been able to tell Tim about your post. Psalm 91:1

La_Petit_Rouge said...

Rhonda, I, too, am thankful for your friend who discovered my post about Mrs. Reba, and shared that discovery with you. Without a doubt, God’s hand was in this. I saw a picture of Mrs. Reba on the internet yesterday and realized that I had seen her picture many times the day before…mere hours before I walked out into my garden and found her mailing label. I had not noticed the name associated with the photo. It was on such a very long list of names and photos that a friend of mine who was volunteering for the Red Cross had posted to her Facebook page; her name got lost to me. But I recognized her face yesterday when I saw her, and it all fell into place.

Rhonda, I consider it a great honor to have made your acquaintance, as well the acquaintance of Mrs. Reba’s family. Our continued prayers are with you all. It gives me peace to know of her happy life, and her loving family and friends…
My regards,

Bear said...

My name is Jeff Gross. i am the husband of Rhonda who has posted in this blog. i am blessed to be able to sing in a group with a bunch of guys who i consider brothers. Tim is one of those guys. I practically spent most of my teenage years in and out of the Jones household. I always felt welcome there. Reba was for sure one of a kind. I will miss her greatly. The last thing I remember her saying to me was bragging on my kids.
Carol, a friend of ours that used to sing with us discovered this blog. Thank you for sharing. We will lay Reba to rest on wed. Keep the family in your prayers.

La_Petit_Rouge said...

It sounds like Mrs. Reba had many families…many people who cared for her, and she for them. The families that we make outside of blood relation are oftentimes just as strong as those we are born into. I like that you described her as one of a kind; indicates to me that she is a woman I would’ve like to have met. She sounds special and precious to you. As a matter of fact, my friend Beth (the one who lost her poultry farm) read the blog and the response Rhonda made, and she made the following comment to me (and I hope she doesn’t mind that I am sharing this), “Carol, I also cried when I read the comment that the precious woman had perished. How do I know she was a precious woman?
We all are precious and priceless in the eyes of our Heavenly Father.”

Jeff, you are all in our prayers…and will remain there.