Monday, May 9, 2011

Make Work: Tenth Installment 'Tornados'

"I went to sleep with gum in my mouth now there's gum in my hair and by mistake I tripped on the skateboard when I got out of bed and by mistake I dropped my sweater in the sink while the water was running and I could tell it was going to be a terrible, horrible, no good very bad day." *

Thats what is was.

April 27th will live on in my mind for a long long time. It was the day that over 200 tornados tore across the South. Including my area of dwelling and my hometown, Ringgold Georgia.

You see, I love the weather. I look at it all the time, it fascinates me, how it changes without regard for us. Somehow we think we can alter it. I had not looked at the weather in a while though, but I found out quick what was coming.

I work in a Business Development Center, essentially, a lot of different business that do different things, getting their ideas off the ground. When the first wave came through, I could feel it. I could see that the clouds were not really the same as a storm cloud, anyone knows that. It had that erie look and feel, oddly cool. Lots of wind, that would not stop, then would die off to nothing. Thats when I get afraid.

When the first wave was coming through, we depended on the geeks with the smart-phones to show us what was happening. I tried and tried to call my wife but the calls would not go out. Then I finally got her, it was spotty but I got the message across 'be careful!'.

I later found out that the first round that morning had a couple tornados in it, one hit the legendary Lookout Mountain. It took out a couple houses that were complete losses. You see, we have been taught a bit of a urban myth. 'Chattanooga will never get a tornado because the mountains around us make a 'bowl' that makes a tornado impossible.....'

Wrong. Wrong.

I told my lead carpenter that we need to call it early, at this point the meteorologists knew what was coming. Another wave at 2 p.m. and another at 8 p.m.. It felt like the impending doom that we all fear, it's coming and you cannot run or drive or fly fast enough.

I got home after 1 P.M., found that a branch came close to hitting the house and was glad it did not, my wife and girls were right there beside it in the sun room. I came inside, settled down (as best I could) and proceeded to look at the neighbors tree that dropped like a bad habit. I am still gathering wood from that.

Once I could get a good idea that things were coming close as promised, we went to the basement. You could have been dragging me to a gas chamber, I was as nervous as though I was going to my grave. I prayed while my knee jumped like a jitterbug. As the storm approached, my Brother was texting me updates due to the internet being down from the first storm. You could hear the wind, then the Quarter size hail, then more wind. I went upstairs to check but came back downstairs after seeing the trees bend like plastic straws in the wind. Once it was quiet for a while, we came back upstairs. We looked around, no damage, and we thanked God we were OK.

Then we had dinner, after that, a friend called. She told us about the tornado that hit Tuscaloosa earlier that day. 'It was a mile wide' she said 'that storm system is headed our way'. My heart rate went up again, then after getting some more weather info, we planned for it to hit around 8 PM. My Brother was my eyes and ears again, he would tell us to get in the basement when a cell was coming over. We turned on a video for our twin girls and we waited it out. The wind and rain and hails again.

Then it happened.

I got several text messages from my Brother about how we would have a couple minutes left or how we were in the clear. Then he texted me 'we are in the basement'. 'Why?' I said. 'Tornado is touching down' he says. 'How do you know?' 'The house is shaking....'

He was right, it was just a quarter of a mile away. After it went through, his next text to me was 'every major building in Ringgold is destroyed'. Now, my brother is a bit of a joker, I did not believe his last text, until the next day.

Once the storms moved out and we were up the next day (without power) it started to dawn on us what had happened. In the system that came through the South, there were 288 Tornados, 344 (approx..) deaths and many structures damaged or demolished by this storm. I have seen this on the news before, some town in OK that is blown away and my thought is 'another one?'. Once you see your hometown like this, the burger joints you go to, the pizza hut that you have your soccer party at, where you took 8th grade classes. Gone.

There are a LOT of crazy stories coming out of these storms, too many to post about. Many people were in it and survived, while their neighbors did not.

April 27th 2011, will live on in my mind for a long time, as it will with many others. I must say, I am glad to be alive, glad to have my family.

I have noticed that I hug my children a little tighter, as well as my wife. Things could have turned out so differently, but I was fortunate.

As I try to move forward with business, life and other things, my mind returns to that day. My heart still beats a little faster....

*Oh, by the way, the quote above is from a book I read my girls. It is about this kid having a bad day, thought it was fitting.
"Alexander and the terrible, horrible, no good very bad day"
By: Judith Viorst

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