A tornado ripped through my town two nights ago. You can view it online – just google Kirksville, Missouri, tornado, and “which hasn’t happened in over ONE HUNDRED years.” (You won’t really need that last part.) It made the news far beyond our local station and storm chasers came in from all over the country, which I found oddly comforting. If it was this big of news when it happened to us, it must not happen elsewhere as often as it seems to.
I’ve never been afraid of storms – I rather like them, never having seen a tornado or its damage up close. But I may have changed a little now. It’s raining with lightening, thunder, and flooding today, and I feel more conscious of severe weather than ever before, and I feel so sad for the houses that no longer have their roofs today.
I was in Walmart when the tornado came through. If you don’t live nearby you won’t know that Walmart is in the north part of town, and “the north part of town” is exactly where the tornado was headed and where it eventually hit. They ushered us to the back of the store, but I wasn’t sure why. No part of the store seemed any safer to me than any other. Drew was with me and felt quite sure we were going to die. I know this, because he kept saying it. He even wrote it on a piece of paper, not being familiar I guess with the power of positive thinking. I only felt truly terrified when the lights flickered, which only lasted a few moments. In those moments, though, I did feel actual terror. It seemed so ludicrous that after everything I’d been through I might die in Walmart during a tornado, but a part of me knew it wasn’t ludicrous at all. It happens. People lost their homes, and three people lost their lives, one of whom I had known – though not well.
I don’t know if I can truly say that I have lived through a tornado. The tragedy was so close – the whole town is only about three miles long, and the tornado was one half-mile in width. But I didn’t happen to be in that particular half. I was sitting on the floor in the baby department of a Walmart with Drew while Michael was almost on the other end of town in our basement with John, Jake, and the dog. We were sadly confused that we might lose each other that way. Then the lights flickered. Soon after, a woman walked by with a name tag and an industrial sized flashlight (turned off – what with the lights being on and all) and told us we were free to go. I went home to Michael, and we ate burritos.
But you can bet I spent the next day watching news conferences and intense video of the storm. I waited anxiously with the rest of the county for the victim’s names to be released. I called the Red Cross and put our names on the list of volunteers. I thought of the fragility of life and the places I never again want to find myself in the middle of a tornado and who might edit my journals for posterity as well as how exactly I’ve presented myself online since that’s the only living publication of my thoughts and worldview. When the names were released, I cried.
It’s very unsettling for a tragedy to be near you but not quite yours. I think I can work through this one better if I just go ahead and claim it.
A tornado ripped through my town. But my family and I survived it.