30 January 2013

Three minutes that changed a life

As a kid, I would make fun of my mom for being afraid of thunderstorms. I thought she was silly. Until April 9, 2009. It had been a beautiful day, no clouds, no hint of danger. Sunshine and I were watching teevee when I got a text message on my phone: "tornado warning for Shreveport" from TWC's alert system. I told Sunshine; he switched the teevee to our local weather team. There stood the guy, waving his hand over the map, saying "if you live on Cross Lake, take cover now". Then the lights went out.

We lived in a rental house that had plate glass windows on every fucking exterior wall in the house. There were no interior rooms. Even the bathroom had plate glass windows in it, for fuck's sake. We headed for the central hallway and closed all the doors to all the other rooms. Sunshine opened the guest-room door and tried to pull the futon mattress off the bed to cover us. There was no time. I could hear that noise I had heard others describe: it really did sound like a train. I made him shut the door, and we hit the floor.

We huddled in the hall. I kept lifting my head up to see if I could hear the sound of breaking glass underneath the noise of all the wind and falling trees. Sunshine kept making me eat carpet. Every muscle in his arms was twitching with fight-or-flight response. I remember thinking "what's an atheist do in a situation like this", and I almost started giggling. I never did have the urge to pray, but I felt a deep peace wash over me.

The whole thing lasted a few minutes. The wind had gone from sounding like a train to sounding like a runaway train with the engineer leaning on the horn. I can still hear that howling shrieking madness all these years later. The booming sounds were continuous, with no breaks in between. Until it passed.

Utter silence. Until the rainwater began pouring through the roof onto the kitchen floor.

Every single tree between us and the lake was gone. Obliterated. We got lucky, though. We just had roof and wall damage out the ass. Believe it or not, there was not so much as a crack in ANY of that plate glass. The tornado came off the lake, took out all the trees, jumped over our house, took out the house behind us, and hopped a few more times before it lost steam and quit fucking shit up. It knocked train cars off the tracks just a quarter-mile behind the house.

These days, I am weather aware. My friends make fun of me. May 2010, a dangerous storm system was predicted; I threw a shit stomping fit until Sunshine had us in a hotel to ride it out. Yazoo City got decimated. In 2011, they were predicting a PDS (particularly dangerous situation) and telling people to take steps to protect life, and Reed motherfucking Timmer was in the ArkLaTex to chase the storm. (Reed isn't just a storm chaser, he's an extreme storm chaser. When Reed shows up in your area, put your head between your knees and kiss your ass goodbye.) I packed our clothes into the car and left the magic bus. Sunshine laughed at me. Tuscaloosa got wiped off the map.

Yesterday, I felt myself get ever more tense as the storm approached. RVs do NOT survive tornados, period.

We got off light last night. We had some moderate wind and rain for about an hour. We have electricity this morning. But I am not letting my guard down. I will keep following ALL of the weather guys on teh twittah. I will keep fresh batteries for our weather radio. I will not divorce my teevee husband, Reed Timmer. And I will probably let Sunshine buy land and build a house, because he can build blast-proof arms vaults for military bases and he promises me a storm shelter that will survive a Tuscaloosa or Joplin scale storm.

That three minutes we spent getting rocked by a tornado changed my life. Yes, I am probably still affected by PTSD. But it goes much deeper. Tyler Durden (Fight Club) said that "it's only after we've lost everything that we are free to do anything". In those three minutes, a seismic shift occurred. I made peace with my own mortality. I have lost attachment to material things. I have begun to live. Was it ALL a result of that tornado? No. But that three minutes would be the point in time where all those changes began. Those three moments left me open for the gifts that my recovery has brought me. Life has seemed so much simpler since we survived that three minutes of hell.

I'll get through those awful times when weather threatens; and when weather isn't threatening, I will motherfucking LIVE.


  1. You, my darling, are a survivor in every definition of the term. I'm blessed to have you and your enlightenment in my life. And I'm damn happy you're still around.
    Keep living, my friend, and I'll be right be your side for the ride <3

    1. it's going to be a more pleasant ride with you along for company!

  2. Replies
    1. we actually had more wind today than yesterday or last night

  3. I knew you'd find the silver lining to Sunshine's home building tendencies.

    I say good for you for trusting your gut and appreciating your survival. And no bacon for anyone who makes fun of you - maybe they'd like to talk to my friend who is a nurse in Joplin about what storms can do.

    1. oh, god, my heart broke for Joplin. As bad as our experience was, we got off light compared to Joplin and Tuscaloosa. Please send your friend my love!

  4. I grew up and have lived in two of the Mid Atlantic states (PA & NJ) we normally get the remnants of hurricanes or in the winter we get nor'easters but for the most part, here in the Delaware Valley we're at least 60 miles inland from the ocean to the east and are buffered from approaching weather systems by the Appalachian mounts to the west so for the most part we the weather is tame here.

    You and all those who find themselves living in dangerous weather areas amaze me. I don't know how you do it. You should see the supermarkets here if the weatherman even remotely mentions s snowstorm. I can't imagine what it is like to hear tornado sirens going off and knowing that you need NEED to take cover. I don't know how you all don't just up and decide to move to Philadelphia.

    1. I live at the intersection of two of the seven inner circles of hell. Tornado alley, which is the traditional plains states tornado alley; and dixie alley, which runs along the I20 corridor through the deep south. Good times, no? We once drove through some fierce storms to get to town for our NA meeting. When we got to town, tornado sirens went off. We hid in a corner of the laundromat, looking like drowned rats from all the torrential rain (from the car to the door, all of 15-20 feet). Unfortunately, the area where we live? No sirens. Hence the obsession with guys like Reed Timmer and Johnny Kelly, the weather radio, the weather apps, the Weather Channel. Also? mention snow here and the grocery stores instantly become warehouses full of empty shelves, even though we rarely get more than 6 snowflakes out of a "snowstorm" around here. Speaking of snow, that would be why I don't just up and move to Phildelphia or anywhere else north of the mason-dixon line. I'm totally allergic to cold.