I've never lived in Rock Ridge, but I consider it an extension of what I define as "home."
It's where my daddy grew up — the setting for his stories of sitting up all night at the tobacco curing barn, playing ball for Rock Ridge School, hunting with his brothers and friends. It's home to Marsh Swamp Church where my family has worshipped for decades. It's where so many of my dear friends live, work and go to school. So yes, it's like home.
When yesterday's storm warnings indicated a tornado near Rock Ridge. I panicked. So did Anna, who asked me to leave work and hurry home. I did just that, and the two of us monitored the weather warnings.
I grew particularly alarmed when I heard the storm was taking a path towards Rock Ridge School Road and Sadie Road. I'm one of the lucky ones who knows exactly where Sadie Road is. Sadie Road is most definitely home; it's where my grandparents lived. It's what we cousins have referred to as "the garden" since our childhood. Although no one has lived on that 4-acre plot of heaven on Earth since the early 1970s, it wasn't until three years ago that my father sold it.
And Rock Ridge School Road? Marsh Swamp Church is on that road, and I know so many people who live there. I was frightened for those families, for our recently remodeled church, for the school, for Herd of Turtles Pottery.
I prayed, I panicked, and I kept listening to weather reports.
As soon as the storm had passed the Rock Ridge area, I called my pastor, Ray Wells, to make sure he and the church were OK. He was following a fire truck headed towards Sadie Road. He was OK, the church was OK, but as it turns out, many families would be returning to damaged or destroyed homes that evening.
I was at work Tuesday night, monitoring the scanner with my co-workers and reminding them that the tornado struck just a mile from where they watched us bury my father in March. I anxiously made calls to see if my Rock Ridge friends were OK, looked at photos from the damaged homes and picked out familiar faces in the crowd gathered at the shelter.
The photo that upset me most shows the damaged homes where Sadie and Rock Ridge School roads meet. I got a sick feeling as my husband and I looked at the image on the newspaper's Web site later that night. I ran my finger along the line where Sadie Road leads to the garden. How many times have I traveled that road, walked that road, looked at the chickens that scratched and pecked in the dirt yard of a farmhouse that stood there years ago?
Devastation had hit too close to home. In fact, it had hit home.