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.