Herb heard the chatter of helicopters following the river toward Ravenna. He turned to Ralph with a nod toward the sound. “Sounds like our secret is out.”
Ralph straightened up to turn and look where Herb pointed. “Yup, imagine what a mess this must look like from the air. Now the nation will know about Ravenna and probably us too. See, get ready to smile and look real pretty. Here comes one now.”
Herb did smile and wave as the news copter whirled overhead. He didn’t know that the cameraman zoomed in on his face. In moments, his dirty sweat stained face appeared across the nation, standing in front of the church in the midst of long lines of people waiting to be helped. Herb turned back to his work with Ralph as the copter moved away toward the high bridge, showing the world that the little white church on the bluff stood as the only center for help over a ruined and smoking city. Herb muttered as he felt the Spirit wash over him again. I wonder what that was all about? Help us God to know our way, to help these in such desperate need.
Ralph’ face covered over with the strain of the morning. “Imagine what the city looks like by now. With the low bridges down and acting as blockages, the river’s gonna gouge out part of the city fairly quick, I’d say. Did you see those geysers? Never thought I’d see something like that around here.”
Herb needed to stand away for a minute. The dull ache in his back was starting to sound like a chorus of pain. He looked over to see Ralph straighten up with the same strained look. Herb grabbed Ralph by the arm and gestured toward the bluff. “Come on. We need a break.”
Ralph grimaced and absently rubbed his sore shoulder. “You’re right. These ol’ bones are talkin’ to me.”
Herb and Ralph ambled toward the edge of the bluff, moving in a random line around people laying in groups on the church lawn. Soft moans or occasional weeping from the trauma sounded around them. Herb shook his head at the misery of it all. “You know, I walk over this path each morning to pray for the people of Ravenna and now look. It’s gone. Most of it.”
Suddenly the trauma of the morning became too much for Herb. He reached up toward the heavens. “Oh God. What’re you doing here? The ruin, the hurt, the loss of life. Is this your answer to our years of prayers? Please, oh, Lord…, help me to understand, to see this for what you’re tryin’ to do.”
Ralph stopped a few steps ahead of Herb. What he saw below the bluff was too much for words at first. His shoulders slumped down in dismay at the Ravenna he no longer recognized. “Look Herb. It’s gone…, all gone. They better watch out down river. All this debris, and the tank farm, oh my, see the fuel streak? That’s gonna foul the river for miles. I can’t even see the old neighborhood where Elise and I used to live. It must be, no, that part is gone too. See? The high school is just a shell.
Herb joined Ralph on the well used lookout. In better times, Herb remembered church members having picnics here to look over the town. Now…, what would they see but a ruined town? Movement by the high bridge caught his focus. Grabbing Ralph’ arm, he pointed toward the source. “Look, they must have rescue teams crossing back over into the city.”
Ralph nodded as he viewed the scene. “Yup, and that means more injured people comin’ here.” He turned back toward the church to see a news van pull into the church parking lot. “Oh no, now we’re in for it.”
Herb leaned past Ralph for a better look. “Oh no is right. See? They’re already movin’ into the crowd.
The news team rushed to put a face on the disaster. The team was surprised by Chris, an intense young man eager to fill the screen. Chris burst with his news. “I’m all right now. All I had in Ravenna is gone. Praise the Lord. Now I have Jesus!”