Until last week, the closest I had ever come to seeing damage from a tornado was the famous twister on The Wizard of Oz. Here in Maine, we have blizzards and hurricanes, black flies and mud season, but tornados are something that happen in other places, to other people.
Last week, I witnessed the effects of tornado damage up close. We were driving south on Route 95 through North Carolina, the day after severe twisters ravaged that state, and even from the highway, the wreckage was apparent. Later, passing through some small towns, I saw scenes of destruction and despair. One scene stood out in my mind: a tree completely full of pink insulation -- wrenched from a house and somehow deposited on the branches. All around us, homes were flattened, trees were severed, and homeowners wore the look of resigned determination I've seen here after whopper snowstorms. The only difference? Instead of snow shovels, they were wielding chainsaws.
And now the twisters have devastated Alabama, and my heart aches for the many people I met there in February at Murder in the Magic City in Birmingham, and Murder on the Menu in Wetumpka. 194 people are estimated to have perished in Alabama alone: the 173 tornadoes that have ravaged the south are the deadliest since 1974. I'm writing this to let the mystery fans and authors that I met there know that we are thinking of them -- praying for them, and hoping that their lives can return to a "new" normal as soon as possible.
I'm especially thinking of Margaret Fenton, who got me to taste my first-ever Fried Green Tomato BLT. (Yes -- it was delicious.) For those of us in the mystery genre world, Margaret is one of our champs: she works tirelessly to organize a great conference and promote our books. She's a writer herself (Little Lamb Lost) and a remarkable woman. Margaret -- I know I am not alone in thinking of you and wishing you and your family the best! Also Tammy, who organizes a fabulous luncheon and discussion in Wetumpka --- hope all is well....
What does this have to do with writing, you may be asking? Well, even though we may write our novels in a vacuum, we promote them in community. I absolutely loved meeting the writers and readers of Birmingham and Wetumpka. They are my friends, and in this dark time, I want them to know that they aren't forgotten.