I grew up in an area that is referred to, not so affectionately, as Tornado Alley. Fort Smith, Arkansas to be specific, which if you look at the picture I’ve included is right in the eye of some of the most severe tornado activity.
Looking at photos of the terrible devastation that occurred in Oklahoma today and the photos of the tornadoes themselves, I felt that old terror that I used to feel when I was still living in that area of the country and I realized that there is not a single thing that could possibly entice me to ever
live in that area ever again.
I lived through plenty of tornadoes during my years in Arkansas, but I still remember one particular instance that scared me more than all the others.
When I was in first grade we lived in a house in Arkoma, which was a ghetto little town on the border between Arkansas and Oklahoma. Most people will tell you that they have cellars or basements that they retreat too when the sirens for a tornado warning start blaring, but our house at the time was extremely old and the basement was poorly constructed. It had been raining for days and the basement had filled with water, several feet deep, as it tended to do when we got big storms (having a company come out to pump the water out of the basement was commonplace for us, several times a year) and there was no way we could go down there during the tornado warning that came through that night.
We had a barn in the back of the house, but it was old and oddly reminiscent in that one scene from Twister where they hide in the barn full or sharp farming tools. Not the best plan.
So we hunkered down in the only hallway in the house that had no windows, on a mattress from the guest room, with pillows piled around us. Just me, my sister, and my parents. The power cut out at some point, but before it did we were watching the coverage of the storm on the TV and the images of that tornado are burned into my memory.
When the power finally cut we sat in the dark, not even using candles, and listened to the storm.
I don’t really remember what the tornado sounded like, I just know that it was loud. It never hit our little area of town, but it passed quite near us and I could hear the noises. The wind picking up to insane levels and the next morning we had limbs down from our very old, very tough Magnolia tree in the front yard.
I’m pretty sure I didn’t sleep the entire night, even after the sirens switched off.
I don’t remember if it was one day or two before I went back to school, but I sat down in my class with my favorite teacher I ever had in elementary school had a bandage on her hand from getting splinters pulled out of her and a horror story about how a third of her house was flattened and it was only by the grace of god that the portion of the house they had been hunkering down in had been spared, though part of the roof of that room had been ripped off.
Tornadoes put the fear of god in me.
Last week I got home from Dallas after BlogCon and I was relieved to realize that I made it out the day before severe storms and tornadoes hit the area.
They are truly an unstoppable part of nature and you can’t really escape from them, you can only try to hide some place safe and wait for them to pass over. Usually ripping your town apart as it passes. Sometimes they kill, sometimes they merely rip apart your material possessions. You can never tell what they will do.
Now that I’ve told you my story, keep in mind that I was lucky. In fact my teacher was lucky too. She was only superficially wounded and her husband and children remained safe and unharmed throughout the storm, but in Oklahoma this week many were not so lucky. So please if you can find the money, donate to Mercury One, where 100% of the donations will be going to the survivors in Oklahoma.