The photos and videos coming out of the hardest hit parts of the country this morning are devastating. I love thunderstorms, but after spending three years in Oklahoma, I came away with an absolute hatred of tornadoes.
When you’re there, you kind of get used to it. And the meteorologists are aces at showing you exactly where the storm cells will hit and at what time. But I still hate them.
I have two strong tornado memories.
The first happened on the day my son was born. I was still at the birthing center, and all of us—except those in actual labor—had to push our babies to the basement hallway and stand there for about an hour. At that moment I actually envied the ladies who’d had C-sections because they were in wheelchairs, and therefore seated.
I call Taz my tornado baby, and he definitely has the energy.
My second significant tornado memory was much worse. We were living on base when the huge storm of May 1999 passed through, clipping the corner of the base, and demolishing the neighborhood across the street and to the southwest. I think 42 people died, including one of the greeters who was so familiar from my trips to the base exchange.
We were lucky, huddled under a mattress in the hallway with our two then-babies, listening to the radio, shocked when the announcer said that homes on nearby Sooner Street were gone. The next morning, debris littered our yard. Pieces of insulation, bits of papers and photos, the detritus of destroyed homes and families.
The neighborhood we had lived in our first year in Oklahoma—only half-a-mile away—was also leveled. The house we’d rented survived with some damage, but starting two houses over and for about a quarter-mile east it looked like a war zone.
Did you hear the Tuscaloosa mayor say that he didn’t even recognize some parts of his own city after last night’s storm? I can relate to that. Months after the storm came through OKC, my husband and I drove through our old neighborhood and got lost! Without street signs and the landmarks we were used to, we took a few wrong turns before finally finding our street.
The whole place was rubble. Trees were largely stripped, and were full of wreckage. We even saw a couch stuck on a limb. All that remained standing of many homes were closets, chimneys, and bathrooms. It was hard to reconcile reality with the remembered images of streets we’d once driven daily.
Even harder was to imagine suffering through the tornado while all around the world collapsed.
My heart goes out to the those who’ve lost loved ones, their homes, or their livelihoods.