Growing up in Texas, we had tornado drills just as often as fire drills. If I remember right, it was three short bursts of the bell and we lined up, went into the hallway, and ducked against the walls covering our heads.
Being one of the tallest kids in class, I mostly remember it being a pain in the butt trying to crouch down as tight and low as my classmates. I don’t think it ever really set in with me the importance of those drills either… Because we had gotten lucky for years. My little hometown missing the bullet.
I remember many nervous nights at home, though, listening to the wind howl, watching the weather, lighting hurricane lamps. Even then, we we’re lucky. Time and time again, the tornados missing us.
Fall 1996, our first football game of the year, storms billowed and churned. We warmed up in the band hall, when someone broke in and told us to take cover. We huddled up again the only brick wall in that building. I remember holding hands and praying with my friends for safety and protection from the danger. I remember how eerie it was hours later, after the game was postponed and we all went home safe, that the skies parted and we ended up with the most brilliant sunset. We once again got lucky.
No one knew, though, that about 8 months later another small town would not fare so well. May 1997, 20 tornados touched down within less than two hours of my home. One was an EF-5 tornado that hit the town of Jarrell, Texas, killing 27 people — 11 of which were teens like me… 6 of those had been on the football team. I remember crying for the loss of those lives. It hit so very close to home.
There is no asking, “Why?” There is only, “How can I help?”
When I moved to Nashville, it seemed “tornado alley” followed me. April 2009, the “Good Friday tornado outbreak” occurred. My husband and I were in Texas for Easter, and we watched online as a large EF-4 tornado swept across Middle Tennessee… Only a few miles from our home. Once again, tears were shed, especially for the mother and her 9-week-old who were killed.
Moore, OK. Joplin, MO. The April 25-28, 2011 outbreak. This week I happened to be watching tv as Tupelo, MS took a direct hit. The footage out of Arkansas was staggering.
Every time tornado warnings come I wonder if this is the time I won’t be so lucky. Is this the time we will be facing starting over… assuming we get through it.
And yet, outside of trusting I know what to do — seek shelter, protect myself the best I can, pray — there is nothing I can do about it. I can’t stop the tornados. I can’t avoid them entirely. What will be, will be. And should that day come that “my luck runs out” I pray I have the strength to do what has to be done and the faith to keep going forward.
My prayers are with all the victims of these latest storms as well as those still living with the scars of past tragedies.
CNN has compiled a great list of ways we can all help victims of these massive storms.