TORNADOS, AGING AND AMAZING GEORGE Terry S Wright May 11, 2011 “Amazing.” That’s the takeaway for everyone who visits any part of devastation from the April 27 th tornadoes across the Southeastern US. And, while the number of deaths and injuries is staggering, more amazing is that those numbers are not exponentially higher. It is unfathomable that a weather event can do this much damage in a matter of seconds. The result is speechlessness for those who witness any portion of the endless miles of carnage and devastation. It cannot be adequately described; there are no words…. so we just insert “amazing.” A few minutes after an EF4 carved through Tuscaloosa, Alabama, it churned north and east slamming into the city of Pleasant Grove, just a few miles from downtown Birmingham. Here, as in every community hit by these tornadoes, the aftermath for survivors is a varying degree of loss. Some lost a little, most lost a lot and many lost everything. Two weeks out, anxiety, bewilderment and even fear are still evident among survivors in Pleasant Grove, with one overwhelming exception ….. an 89 year old man named George. George Hamilton is amazing. He is an anomaly, with the mental acuity, body and agility of someone 30 years younger. His doctor told him recently that his birth certificate and his age are in disagreement with one another; it is as if the aging clock somehow stopped for George a few decades ago. He is a patriot, having served in the Navy during WWII, where from 1942-1945 he patrolled the frigid waters of the Bering Sea in the Aleutian Islands. He’s had many varied jobs over his lifetime, but says his favorite was when he worked on a crew laying hot asphalt under a brutal Alabama summer sun - amazing. Anyone spending time with George will experience his quick wit, his indomitable spirit and a genuine love for God, life and the people around him. His daughter (known simply as “Sister”) says that George is the go-to guy anytime someone needs encouragement from an eternal optimist. On April 27th, George was one of those who lost it all, materially anyway. All that is left of his brick home at 541 9th Avenue in Pleasant Grove is the floor. There is no longer a roof, there are no doors or windows and no walls - just the floor and the steps on his front porch. The house and almost everything in it flew away and are now part of an unbelievable mass of wreckage
that characterizes the landscape of the surrounding community for miles. All that remained was George’s refrigerator, recliner, a floor lamp and strangely, the cleaning supplies, which still sit untouched in what used to be a cabinet under the kitchen sink. The utility room also blew away, but left the washing machine & dryer intact. What’s left of George’s son’s truck remains in the driveway... he kept it one day too long. A last minute decision was the difference for George and his daughter. This too was amazing because for some reason, just five minutes before the storm hit, he and “Sister” made the unprecedented decision to leave for the safety of his son’s house with a basement… a decision they had never made in previous storm warnings. As a result, they are both here as survivors rather than statistics. While all of this may be amazing, George’s circumstances are replicated in equally amazing forms throughout every community where storms and tornadoes have taken their toll. Circumstances by themselves do not define a man’s character and impact others nearly as much as that man's response to them does…. it is George’s response to this crisis that is THE amazing story here. Though he lost almost all of his personal belongings on April 27, George is fixed on the needs of others instead of himself; serving God, his community and his church in any way he can. He routinely mixes and mingles with storm victims, relief workers and anyone else who comes into the Bethal Baptist Church Disaster Recovery Site in Pleasant Grove. He is quick to lend a hand with anything, including things involving physical labor. However, regardless of the activity, those around cannot miss George’s unquenchable smile, his endearing laugh and his obvious zest for life, which affects anyone in his company, regardless of age. It is amazing to watch the impact this 89 year old man has on those around him. Though he is a talker and can rattle off stories one after the other from a long life, he shows genuine grace and great interest in those around him. Handshakes have always been the norm for George because he has no enemies and most everyone with whom he comes in contact instantly considers him a friend. Since the tornado though, he says the handshakes have turned into hugs, because he now has even greater appreciation for those around him and each new day the Lord gives him to live. He demonstrates the sincerity of his faith by living a life characterized by thankfulness and by practicing what he preaches. George is using every minute to serve by helping family, friends and inspiring everyone around with the gregarious charisma with which he has been so obviously blessed.
Though he would never use “amazing” to describe himself, George will freely use the word to describe the grace God has given him through all of his 89 years, including providence in the events of the April 27th tornado. At a time when most storm victims are pondering losses and focused on recovery, and at an age when many of those still among us have long since slowed down, he shows no sign of loss. The tornado did not pierce or even put a dent in George’s armor; he shows no signs of slowing down. By the way, in September George is headed to Nicaragua on a medical mission trip. Yes, George Hamilton is an amazing man….
Terry S Wright / firstname.lastname@example.org / 205 222 7300
Meet 89 - year old George Hamilton; an amazing man... he looks and lives30 years younger. His doctor says his age and birth certificate do n...