Friday, April 29, 2011

I've been thinking lately of what I'm missing in the city

March 2008
We survived the storm. Thanks to those who emailed and left comments to make sure we were okay. Unlike our neighbors a few miles away, we were untouched. School was out today and will be out again tomorrow due to power outages, but in the grand scheme, that's nothing. It means Sophie and I can watch the royal wedding live.

Like so many others, we took cover in our basement and waited while the sirens wailed. MathMan and Sophia spread out in the interior hallway. The cats complained behind the bedroom door where they paced, periodically shoving a paw under the door like a peace offering. Please, release us? Let us go?

Nate and I fidgeted around the great room, sitting in lawn chairs, peeking at twitter, pressing our noses against the window of the back door. The basement isn't truly underground. It's what's called a daylight basement, but at least we were closer to the ground. If something ugly and powerful came across the top of the hill across the way, at least we'd have better luck on this floor.

The satellite TV came and went. MathMan monitored the situation on his laptop. I thought it was odd and interesting to see our tiny town of Euharlee, Georgia highlighted on The Weather Channel of all places. MethTV on cable access, sure, but not The Weather Channel!

I became obsessed with everyone having on a serious pair of shoes. Something sturdy. Trainers or Doc Martens, I didn't care. But if there was any chance we'd be wandering the streets in the dark looking for each other and our belongings, I sure as hell didn't want us doing it in our flip flops or bare feet.

Before we took cover, I did a little prep - found the flashlights, played kitty rodeo until every last one was locked in Chloe's basement bedroom, arranged snacks, and gathered up all my works in progress and stuck them in a suitcase in the basement. I need to remember this post because you can bet three weeks from now I won't have a clue where my hard copies of WIPs have disappeared to. I'll be ready to blame anyone but me.

Nate and I watched the lightening. At one point, it flashed so frequently that we could have pretended we were living through The Blitz. "Okay, this is getting old," Nate said. "I wouldn't have survived The Blitz. No way. I would have lost my mind and run into the street waiting for a bomb to drop on me. Hey, imagine that as a story - some moron runs into the street losing his head, begging to be bombed and then a missile hits the bomb shelter he just left and everyone dies, but him because he was going crazy."

Was that ever an episode on The Twilight Zone? And why do my kids insist on feeding me story ideas while I'm trying really hard not to freak out? I'd watched the coverage of the tornado's destruction of Tuscaloosa and Birmingham. I didn't want to think about that damn storm coming through the dark.

Tornadoes scare me like very few things do. I don't even like to fully form thoughts of the things that frighten me more. The sheer helplessness tornadoes impart makes them an especially powerful terror. I used to watch the movie Twister like it was some kind of aversion therapy. Nighttime twisters scare me the most. Like Jo says in the movie, "You can't see them coming."

I don't know which is worse. To be awakened by the sound of a freight train bearing down on you in your bed that's about to become a macabre version of Bedknobs and Broomsticks or to watch the funnel cloud moving toward you and knowing that you've got about a 50/50 chance of surviving the impact of it. The last time I saw a tornado, we couldn't actually see the funnel. It was a wedge tornado like the one that devastated Tuscaloosa yesterday. All we could see was the wall of green passing just over the next ridge. And the roar. That was real.

I don't remember many of my dreams, but I know that I dream often of tornadoes.

My family was out test driving a car when we watched three tornadoes form and head in different directions on April 3, 1974. In 2008, a tornado passed within a mile of our house. Neither time were we affected - neither person nor property - but the destruction and human devastation stayed with me. People died - tossed, crushed. Homes disappeared into the clouds. Business and schools were destroyed or just moved off their foundations by an inch or two. One house was built behind this gorgeous stand of pine trees dotted like an impressionistic painting with dogwoods each spring. After the 2008 tornado, the house stands on a cleared lot with a few stumps sticking up like forlorn reminders of that day when the tall white pines bowed and snapped beneath force of the wind.

After the storm of 1974, we saw dead Holstein cattle - bloated and cartoon-like alongside the road as we made our way home. As we drove toward our house, we didn't know what we'd find when we got there. My parents shared a whispered conversation, trying to prepare themselves for any possibility. We were fortunate - everything was fine. Later, we'd hear fantastic tales from our neighbors about the tornado that passed right over the neighborhood and could be seen becoming a water spout as it passed over the Ohio River.

Yesterday and last night, many were not so lucky. I think about the loss and it's crushing. Sophie asked me if I thought the Earth was getting tired of us, trying to rid itself of us pesky humans with earthquakes, floods, tsunamis and tornadoes.

I shook my head and laughed, feeling lucky that we're safe to ponder such ideas.


  1. I was wondering about you all and am glad to hear you're safe. My daughter is in grad school up at UT in Knoxville - her finals presentation was interrupted by sirens and golfball sized hail.

    Being from Oklahoma, I miss it - kinda. Weird?

  2. The storm hit my county here in northeast TN around midnight Wednesday, so I totally get the fear of nighttime twisters! We were lucky at my house, but not so with others in the community.

  3. So glad to hear you all got through safely. We were thinking of you, and several other of our friends, as we listened to the weather radio screech every 10 minutes or so with another tornado warning. Tornados are my greatest fear. We live on a top floor condo, so have to rely on our neighbors if a big one comes through.

  4. every time I come here I think, 'this funny woman is a good writer'

  5. I'm sure's there a biblical answer to what's happening. Did you see any talking snakes or singing asses? I forget what passages doth warn of those things.

  6. We were just reading about security arrangements surrounding the the Wedding that include plans of action in case of a Runaway Bride scenario. Would young Price Bill be allowed to chase her and if so, how far? Would MI5 have a helicopter ready to whisk the absconding Catherine away, new identity papers at the ready? I'm thinking no wonder they make them wear long dresses with trains that can bring a quick halt to any escape attempt.

    I've experienced a few hurricanes which are bad enough. I never want to see a tornado other than at the movies.

  7. I have wondered the same as Sophie myself...

  8. I'm so glad you and your family are safe. Sophie's question to you is so poignant. I can't stop thinking about it.

  9. It sounds awful anticipating a storm like that, but I am glad you are all ok.

  10. I've always said I'll take earthquakes over tornado season any day. That sounds like a frightening experience.

  11. Glad you are okay. Tornadoes are horrible, aren't they? I dream of them as well, though I've only been near one of them, which passed by our trailer about 200 ft away when I was 8 years old. I will never forget the sound.

    When I dream of tornadoes, we are usually all safe, tucked into culverts or under bridges or under anything I can find in the dream. The only time I dreamed a tragedy was on September 10, 2001, when the basement where we were safe collapsed on us. The next morning, you know what happened. I guess horrible events have shock waves forwards and backwards in time?

    The storm went east of us when it got up here, but I had the kids in the powder room under the stairs for awhile anyway, just in case.

  12. *Phew* xo

    Where exactly on the continent was The Donald when these storms sprang up? Somewhere, he opened his mouth --

    "A serious pair of shoes." -- I was after mine, too. Even up here in southern Ontario, we had wind, hail and lightning ferocious enough that I rigged up a knapsack, put on my rain gear and distracted myself from panic by wondering how I was going to herd and contain my cats. It was *mean* outside ...

    Our trees are still in bud, but look like they'll burst any minute ... Even so, we've had some wicked storms and wind ... Weird weather for sure ...

    Your stories of tornado survival are chilling. I've not (touch wood) encountered one anywhere other than in decades of recurring dreams ...

    Sophie's question is a sage one ...

    Stay safe xoxo

  13. Very powerful post, Lisa. I am so very glad you and yours are ok.

  14. I'm so glad that you guys are safe.

  15. I'm glad you're all fine. I've been watching the devastation through television coverage and it's been horrifying to say the least.

  16. I'm glad you are all safe and able to ponder such big questions, too. She might be right.

  17. I grew up in Iowa and now live in Nebraska. Everyone who lives here understands what to do in a tornado, but the truth is that we often don't do it. We DO go to the basement but that is only to set a good example for my daughter. If Bing and I are alone, we never go to the basement and how stupid is that? Yeah, we will be among those missing if a twister should ever hit and Liv is at a friend's house.

  18. So glad you're alive and kicking.

    I've lived through a few tornado scares, and didn't blink an eye at our last bout of threatening weather--until, in the middle of the night as I lay in bed, I realized I'd whipped off my pajamas a few hours earlier in the midst of a hot flash. I jumped up and threw them back on.

    If someone was going to find my cold, lifeless body later that day, damned if they'd see me bare naked.

  19. Lisa, what an experience. Sophie always gets me.

  20. This is such a moving post - the weather has been so scary lately. So many people have had to contemplate what part of their house is most likely to save them. It's a weird way to look at your house, and I hate it.

    And so many have been in the path of destruction and spared (or not) as the horrors actually happened to their town, their house, their loved ones. 2011 will be remembered for its disasters.

    So glad you are all OK.


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