“Happy Anniversary” Seems like a Weird Thing to Say… for a Tornado.

Today marks the first anniversary of our tornado, here in North Minneapolis. I am completely overwhelmed with my thoughts, so you’ll have to excuse me if this post is all over the place.

This is such a weird time of year for us, with all of the focus on the anniversary. Some coverage is negative, some is positive and hopeful – both with good reason. There was an awful lot of both good AND bad throughout this whole ordeal. I look back on our own experiences, and it’s exhausting.

I’m so tired. My husband is so tired. I’m completely sick of construction, and of most of our formerly-free time being dedicated to it. I can’t wait to be done with it – I’ll never want to see a plank of plywood or a power tool again!

On the other hand, our progress is spectacular. I am completely in love with our new back yard, even though it’s not finished. The exterior of our house is super cute – it may have been a ton of work, but DAMN it looks good! Our kitchen is coming along great – so much more amazing than I ever could have imagined when we bought the house. While sometime sit feels like we’ll never be done, at others I can’t help but marvel at how much we’ve accomplished in 1 year.

As with my feelings on our progress are very mixed, so are my feelings on people.

On one hand… man, I am so sick of the “Armchair Disaster Victims”. It’s a particularly grotesque and heartless breed of internet troll – ones who would rather sit behind a screen an anonymously spew hate about people in the disaster area, than roll up their sleeves. They make me angry… but they also make me pity them. I don’t know how anyone can get by in life, with that much hate. It’s completely ridiculous, and it’s been sad and discouraging to see how this area of the city has suffered so much neglect and derision.

On the other hand… I’ve really seen the best of people over the past year! Closest to us, we were blown away by the kindness and generosity exhibited by the local, national, and even international geek communities. Knowing that so many strangers had our back and were rooting for us was amazing. We received a bit of financial help from friends and strangers alike, and we had many friends – old and new – out to help out with the cleanup effort here.

Beyond the confines of our own property, we were amazed and impressed with how the community came together in this time of need. People who had been strangers up til that point broke bread together, grilled together, and lent each other a hand. Strangers offered up hugs and friendship to people who were in shock and upset.

Peter Kerre and the other volunteers behind the North Minneapolis Post Tornado Watch website have been nothing short of SUPERHEROES this entire time. One year later, and they’re still very active in distributing information and helping the community rebuild. As a logistics nerd, I have nothing but the highest praise for all of those involved with that effort. You were the most honest, unbiased, thorough, accurate, and efficient way for those of us in the tornado area to receive any information, whether immediately after the tornado, or months afterwards. I remain completely, jaw-droppingly impressed with the job you guys did.

By stark contrast, it’s almost noon on the 1st anniversary, and the City of Minneapolis has yet to so much as mention the tornado on *their* Facebook page, and hasn’t in a while now.

Last night, I posted to ask them if they would be marking the occasion, and their reply was simply “The city is doing a memorial tree planting tomorrow morning.”. I asked for further information, none was provided, google is no help. Not quite sure why they’re going so quiet with it, you’d think they’d want the positive publicity.

Anyway.

We feel that the tornado has changed us, for the better. We’re stronger, both mentally and physically. We’re more skilled, having learned to do all sorts of things that we had never tried, prior to the tornado. Should disaster ever strike, I think we’re more ready for it. Beyond having good insurance coverage now, we’ve… been inoculated.

Beyond being prepared, should it ever happen again… we’re prepared to start paying forward all of the help we received. We recently purchased a chain saw, specifically to have one on hand, should we need to step in and help someone out with fallen trees, etc.

We’ve learned to see – and expect – the best in people. If nothing else, this entire experience has taught us to be more social, and inspired us to strive to be better, more active friends… and members of the community.

It really is hard to process and verbalize everything that comes to mind, as I think about the past year.

As time progresses, the overall picture has become overwhelmingly positive. It’s easier to get over the stress of that day, and focus on all the good that has happened since. It made sound weird and crass to say, but if it weren’t for the tornado, we wouldn’t have made the friends we did, and ventured out into our community. We wouldn’t necessarily have learned those new skills – physical and emotional – and our house wouldn’t be anywhere near as cute as it is now.

I’d have another cookbook out, sure – the one I had been working on when we were hit, and which has been sidelined ever since.

Don’t get me wrong, my cookbooks are great – I’m so proud of them – but… I wouldn’t have had the experience of writing Twisted: A Minneapolis Tornado Memoir. It was just such an emotional, raw, fulfilling, and eventually uplifting experience… I wouldn’t exchange it for anything. I’m amazed at the amount of information and experiences that I was able to stitch together between two covers – and that I did so without a complete mental breakdown.

“Twisted” will probably have the bulk of my attention over the coming while. Knowing how my mind works, it’s a welcome distraction from where my head WOULD be right now, had I not written it.

My thoughts go out to all of my fellow tornado victims… no, fellow tornado BADASSES.. Today. Whether locally, or in other tornado zones – stay strong.

On the afternoon of May 22, 2011, North Minneapolis was devastated by a tornado. Twisted recounts the Porters’ first 11 months, post disaster. Rebuilding their house, working around the challenges presented by inadequate insurance coverage. Frustration at repeated bouts of incompetence and greed from their city officials. Dealing with issues such as loss of control, logistics, change, and over-stimulation, as an Aspergian woman.

Subjects covered include: Opportunistic “Vultures”, gawkers, new friendships, a bizarre gingerbread house, unique decisions made with the rebuild – including an internet-famous kitchen backsplash, “Tornado Claus”, contractor drama, water balloons, DIY design and work, music, sensory overload, and details on how to cook jambalaya for almost 300 people, in the parking lot of a funeral home… should you ever find yourself in the position to do so. Order your hard copy here, or digital edition here.

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