In east Greensboro on Tuesday, the entirety of Lord Jeff Drive smelled of sawdust — most of the felled trees had been broken down into piles set at the curb, though a few larger ones still leaned into the homes they had crashed through. The neighbors gathered among the woodpiles, pointing to the worst of the damage, tending their own. You’ve seen the pictures. It looks like a war zone. No home was spared.

The tornado cut a devastating path through east Greensboro, where a few of the residents weren’t doing so great before it touched down. Buildings leveled, homes with their roofs torn off, downed power lines and collapsed trees were everywhere, even as recently as Tuesday. These neighborhoods will be without electricity for the foreseeable future; thousands of people will not be able to live in their homes for months; their children will be shuttled off to different schools while those affected — four in the Guilford County system — await repair.

The whole thing took about 15 minutes.

But even before the skies fully cleared the neighbors were on the streets, beginning the recovery. By Monday hundreds of volunteers had reported for duty — most of them just people who showed up, looking to see how they could help. Savvy organizers established water and food stations at churches and strip-mall parking lots, and GPD blocked off the most dangerous roads, discouraging the looky-loos who had seen it on the news.

On Tuesday afternoon, the brothers of Omega Psi Phi worked a cadre of charcoal grills in the parking lot of the Renaissance Community Co-op, crisping up several hogs’ worth of donated ribs. A cluster of shopping carts held donated clothing. A dozen volunteers sorted groceries into bags as more supplies kept moving in by car and truck. A platoon of food trucks was on its way.

It’s a jarring juxtaposition: So much damage, so much hope.

When the finger of God touched down in east Greensboro, it cut a terrible swath. But it left flowers in its wake.

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