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.