On Saturday I joined a legion of 2,000 volunteers as people from all around the Twin Cities continued to clean up NoMi after the tornado. My group spent the bulk of our time around 29th Avenue and Morgan Avenue North, cleaning up the yard of an immigrant couple. Most of the heavier branches had already been cleared up, but plenty of other debris remained. When they found out we were cleaning for free and not some kind of scam, we were quickly invited into their yard and got to work.
The husband and wife pitched in, and seemed almost compelled to tell us their story:
They were working in their office, a converted bedroom on the side of their house, when the winds picked up and the tornado sirens started to sound off. Since they were unfamiliar with what the tornado siren signaled, they remained working in the study area. A group of neighborhood kids were caught out in the storm, and were running from one door to the next, looking desperately for someone to give them shelter. They pounded relentlessly on this couple’s door until they were let in.
The children rushed the husband and wife down into the basement, where they safely waited for the tornado to pass. When everyone went back upstairs, the first thing they noticed was that a tree had fallen directly on the home office room. Shattered glass and debris were everywhere. If this family had already sought the safety of the basement, the kids might not have been let in by anyone. Conversely, if the children hadn’t been looking for shelter, the couple could have been killed by the falling tree.
After they all noticed how fortunate they were, the husband and wife walked the children home to a joyful reunion with their parents.
Perhaps it was pure chance, or perhaps the wife saw how tired I was. Regardless, I had only a few hours of sleep before waking up very early to meet the proud owners of several new trees from the EcoVillage Tree Nursery. I was absolutely dragging. Volunteers were offered water, but the couple approached me with three cans of Red Bull. Without that boost, there would be no way I could make it through the hard labor in front of us that day.
Thanks to vast numbers of interconnected residents and volunteers, the response to the tornado in north Minneapolis is made up of thousands upon thousands of stories just like this.