The Storm (February 10, 2013)

Tornado

I didn’t see the storm. But I heard it and felt it. Katherine did – three houses wide and stretching to the heavens, rushing toward us. And it rattled her.

he slammed the front door and shouted “get in the hall! Get in the hall!” I did what she said. When I felt it coming, I got her into the inner bathroom bathtub.

As the storm passed over us, I stroked her hair and whispered, “It will be all right. It will be all right.” That was nothing more than speculation, and I knew it at the time. But it seemed the right thing to say. In truth, it was more of a prayer than a statement of fact.

After the most harrowing minutes of my life, I felt my ears pop, and everything went silent.  “There. The storm’s passed.”

We walked to our front door and stepped outside. The destruction was unmistakable. Roofs with trees through them. Thick pine branches strewn across yards and streets like tinker toys discarded by a frustrated child. Huge trees, four feet in diameter, blocked the road on both sides.

Lines and cables lay coiled like vipers. Any one of them could have been live and deadly.

Neighbors poured from their houses, alive and shell-shocked.

We felt lucky, blessed, and thankful, not only that we were alive, but that we’d sustained so little damage.  Then we looked out the back door.

Two massive pines bisected our yard. Our carport lay in shambles, crushed. Our cars (my beautiful, beautiful car, the first I’d ever bought because it was beautiful) lay buried, smashed, totaled, buried underneath no fewer than five big trees.

The dog yard fence was twisted and crushed like tin foil. I thought, dimly, that I could probably handle never seeing Molly, Charlie, and Gigi again, but I couldn’t handle finding their bodies.

Katherine started feeling contractions.

As dusk fell, rescue workers came, evacuating those who could not stay. The way was slow, on foot, through yards, around downed lines and fallen trees, making their painstaking way to where the ambulances waited.

Paramedics told us the hospitals were full, that even if we went in, we would only be triaged. They told Katherine to lie on her side and try to keep calm, to time her contractions, and to call 911 if she needed to.

Our phones rang mercilessly, until I turned mine off to conserve power. How do we call 911 if we run our phones dry answering questions?

When true dark fell, the rescue workers slipped away. No streetlights, no headlights, no moon. No cars. No escape. A pistol on each bed stand, a high-intensity flashlight beside it. Loaded. Chambered. No safety.

No safety.

Rain kept the looters away. It fell like sheets. Sporadically, thunder rumbled, lighting lit the whole night sky bright as day, and Katherine shuddered. I shuddered, too.

We got precious little sleep that night.

But morning came, and with it, the first good news.

Gigi, our traumatized stray, had not perished in the storm. The noises we heard in the night were her wedging her 90-pound body between the patio couch and the corner of the deck. She’s my favorite of our dogs, but I’ve never been happier to see her.

City workers cleared the street. Although we still didn’t have working vehicles, at least we could get out if we needed to. Our parents came to help clean up, to bring supplies, and see if we needed a place to stay. Progressive came through, and we had rental cars by sunset.

It wasn’t over, and it wouldn’t be for quite a while. It wasn’t okay, and it wouldn’t be for quite a while. But it was close enough. And it was going to be okay.

God had preserved us through yet another storm. I don’t know why he has protected us so closely for so long, and I’m certain we are no more valuable or important than anyone else, but I am grateful.

I am grateful.

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