Wednesday, February 28, 2007

"Oh Toto...I've a feeling we're not in Kansas anymore." -Dorothy

Or maybe we ARE in KANSAS.....
It's official....we are back in Tornado Alley!!!!!

It's our first Tornado Watch since we've been in Topeka! It remains to be seen if it's coming here....but honestly, unless it makes a major turn, we should be just fine.

The funny thing is....tornadoes should scare the heck out of me....but they really don't. At least, not until it's right on top of me, threatening me or my family.

The ironic thing is while living in Savannah, the threat of a hurricane scared the poo right out of me! (For those who don't know, people in GA are immune to the "possibility" of a hurricane--because the chances of it actually hitting Savannah are usually pretty small. So, Savannah natives mostly buy some water and batteries, just in case, but move forward with their every day lives.) Well, it's no wonder that the school secretaries looked at me like I was insane when I came flying into the school and checked Logan out of school at the first threat of a hurricane. No way way I going to leave my baby in that school to get blown away by a hurricane. If we were going to get blown away...the we were at least going to get blown away together! Then, we ran to Wal-mart and dropped nearly $200 on emergency supplies. I was freaked out!!! We were even planning where we would evacuate to and which route we would take.
Well, guess what hurricanes stir up? That's right, tornadoes. But, I'm not afraid of the tornadoes, just the hurricane. How dumb is that?
So, here's the thing. I have been in a tornado. And by in, I mean I have been a victim of a tornado.
Back in May 15th, 1990, I was attending college at Oklahoma State University. I had gone there to be with my fiance' and along the way, we broke up because we wanted different things in life...what did we know, we were only 20 years old! But, I was devastated. And every time I ran into him, we ended up out at dinner and back together, only to split again later. (it was a time of severe mental agony, but I loved him so....) But, I digress from the original story.....
My brother had come for a visit, to spend the night and brought his new girlfriend home to meet all of us. The plan was for him to stop and visit me on his way in to Tulsa. I had painstakingly planned and executed a fine dinner to impress Lori, when as we were sitting down to dinner, the phone was ringing. It was my mom, who was freaking out about some tornado warning. Well, if you don't know...a warning means it's happening NOW. I went out to the balcony of my 2nd floor apartment and sure enough, the sky was a weird gray, greenish black color and you could just feel the weird energy in the air. I could see the funnel cloud off in the distance and it was huge. (it was actually about a mile away, I could tell very near my exes townhome) So much for dinner.....
Well, if you don't know, when a tornado is imminant, you are supposed to "take cover" by going to the lowest floor of a building and going into the most interior room which does not have windows, then cover yourself with a mattress, just in case the roof blows off and there is falling debris. My downstairs neighbors had already moved out for the end of the semester, so we were stuck upstairs. Well, in a 2nd story apartment, this is the bathroom, plain and simple. Well, my tiny apartment was holding me, my brother, Lori, my roomie and her boyfriend. Well, the math should tell you that 5 people in a tiny apartment bathroom doesn't really work too well. So, in the spirit of unity and equality, we all decided it was only fair for us to all be in the hallway, with the bedroom doors shut and the mattress over top of us.
The phone rings again and it's Ron (my ex) who tells me a tornado is headed right towards us. I confess to him I am scared and he says he's coming. And I'm like, are you nuts?! (so now I am scared out of my mind and I am now forced to over-analyze why he's suddenly acting like my boyfriend out of the blue.....) And the call waiting beeps.....'s my mom, again. She's calling in to say she's watching the track in tv from 1 1/2 hours away in Tulsa and she's freaking out, terribly worried about our safety. All of a sudden we can hear the wind kicking up and the phone goes dead. And we lose power. We can all feel the building moving. Seriously, it's really swaying. I didn't even know that was actually possible.
It's obvious from the sound that we are in the middle of a REAL storm here. It's blowing, making eerie noises, noises like I have never heard before. Noises we can't quite decipher. Then, the building is truly swaying back and forth and we can feel it. Then, as cliche' as it is, we hear the sound of the freight train, the sound that it is rumored that a real tornado sounds like. By now we are all VERY SCARED and crying. The sounds, the darkness, the strange colors we can see from the sliding glass window and the intense moving the building is doing. It was all so intense.
My brother, the minister-in-training says, "I'd like to pray aloud." And he begins his prayer. The whole thing was like something you see in the movies. The tension was almost playing it's own movie-like musical crescendo, the kind of music that in the movies lets you know something really bad is happening...........and as he prays aloud, "Please, Lord, deliver us from the threat of this storm. Please keep us all safe. Please protect us Father...." As he prays these words, seriously, the storm lifted, the building stopped moving and the tensions eased.
Now, I know this must seem unreal to you, but truly it was a surreal moment. A moment that we were delivered from the imminent danger of losing our lives. (and it was a real danger, 8 people were injured and one person died in this tornado)
If you know me well, you know that I struggle with the religion issues, due mostly to some tragic events that have occured in my life, that I can't seem to make sense of. But, I tell you this, in that very moment, I was forever convinced of the presense of God. God is real. God protected us. God delivered us from this storm. I have never doubted that for one moment. He spared us that night.
How do I know this? Because when we were delivered from the danger we were in, this storm lifted up and went across the road approximately 2/10ths of a mile from my apartment and completely destroyed 2 entire city blocks, which amounted to 200+ houses and businesses. This was serious business. I just don't believe that there is ANY way this was a coincidence!
When we felt it was safe to emerge from under the mattress, we walked to the balcony and all we could see was debris EVERYWHERE and power lines down everywhere. We were trapped in my apartment, due to power lines being down directly out my door, even laying on my building. So, we waited. After what seemed like an eternity, we heard a knock at the door. "Fire Department, anybody home?! Anybody in there?!?"
They told us that we needed to evacuate because the condition of the building was bad. What?! What were they talking about? No time to ponder that, we had to get out. He said, "bring your personal items, but hurry, we have to get you out of here." So, of all the things I could have grabbed....I brought some pjs, a toothbrush, a hair scrunchy, my purse and the pile of bills off my desk. Why I grabbed those bills, I still don't know. I can only assume that was God, taking care of me, again. Because those bills were the only thing that allowed me access back to my apartment in 3 days when they let us back into the area. (because of the extreme damage and all the power lines down, the severely limited access into the area to keep "storm damage chasers" out.) To get into the area, you had to present something with proof of your address on it. Those bills were the only proof that I had of my address there. (as a college student, my drivers license listed my parents address.)
As we left that night, the fire department warned us of the power lines that we had to climb over and under to get out of there, with the only light coming from the flashlights the firemen had brought. The lines were thought to be dead, but stepping on a "live" wire could cost you your life. Even in our escape, we were still faced with danger.
As we walked out from the area, we had to walk about 1/2 a mile up to the corner, where the Red Cross had set up an "emergency shelter" at the Best Western. As we walked up to the hotel, I heard my name being called by a very familiar was Ron. (you have to remember, this happened in the olden days, days before cell phones. He only knew I was ok when he saw me.) He had come. I couldn't believe it. He threw his arms around me with tears in his eyes. He held me and said, "Thank God you are all right." Come stay at my apartment he said and I wanted to. I needed him. I was weak. I was exhausted. I wanted him. I wanted to be with him. I loved him, he was safe to me and in that moment, he was loving me. And I so wanted him to love me.
So, all 5 of us checked in with the authorities and left with Ron and went home with him.
I sometimes consider that night to be the beginning of the real end of his and my relationship. With all he had put me thru in the preceding months. On again, off again, on again, off again. It was just all too much. I loved him with my whole heart and I now knew that he still loved me, no matter what he said and did. Now, if I hadn't been a virgin, I guarantee you I would have slept with him that night, whether we were together or not. But, I didn't. You see, we were both virgins and we were both raised in the church and we both believed in waiting for marriage. That was a hard night. A night that I thought I was going to die. And I truly wanted to give myself to him...even if it was wrong and went against everything I believed in.
But I knew for him to drive in the 2+ hours from Oklahoma City, driving right into a storm.... well, you just don't do that unless you truly love someone.
So, as I spent the next few days at his townhome waiting for word that we could go back to the apartment. During those days, Ron and I got very close again. I thought things were going to be wrong I was. My naivete' came back and bit me in the rear again..... but that's another story..........
When we were finally allowed back in 3 days later, I was stunned to find that my car had been smashed by a flying gigantic apartment building sized dumpster....oh well, I hated that car anyway..... But even more shocking, was to find that my apartment building was severely damaged. (Remember the comment of the fireman?)
In fact, the tornado was ripping the roof off of my building and the damage literally stopped on the other side of the wall of my apartment. It was clear to me then, that's what we had felt that night. Those were the eerie noises we heard, but couldn't quite figure out what they were over the loud "freight train" noise of the tornado. Randy's prayer was answered, we truly had been spared that night......
It had been a freaking F3 Tornado! A Severe tornado. This means 158-206 mile an hour winds. No wonder it smashed the dumpster into my car! No wonder there was so much debris.
We were lucky. We were alive. We were not harmed. We lost nothing, except all the groceries I had bought for Randy and Lori's visit....a small price to pay, in my opinion. (and yes, I went across the street and surveyed the blocks of destroyed houses....which was quite humbling, knowing that the Lord had spared us....) That was the first and last time I saw true devestation in person.
So, as the days passed, we had access to the apartment, but we still had no electricity. We had to go to Wal-mart and buy a cooler and a hibachi grill and that's how we ate for the next few days. FEMA showed up to help all those who lost everything. The Red Cross helped people like us, poor college students who lost all our food, etc. We tried to deny their help, but they would not let us. The insisted we were victims, too. It was all a very surreal experience.
But, also as the days passed, I longed for Ron. I wanted more than anything to be with him. To be engaged again. To be his girlfriend/fiance' again. (and my near-death experience confirmed this to me- I know, I know *drama queen* but again, I was very young!!!)
But as time passed, Ron was less and less there for me. He fell back into his on/off pattern and I couldn't take it anymore. He was breaking my heart nearly every few days and I was letting him do it. We had been kinda on again when my 21st b-day came around June 12th. And he didn't even call me. The year before I got 20 long-stem red roses....this year he didn't even call. Well, that night I went out with a good friend who I had truly been infatuated with for many years and his girlfriend. Let's just say, it was my 21st birthday and I was broken-hearted. They carried me out of a well-known bar called Eskimo Joes that night. (Needless to say, my broken heart didn't always help me make the best choices.) Well, I called him that night after my friends brought me home and that was the end of any possibility of "us."
Looking back, I don't really know what happened between him and I. Maybe we were just too young. Maybe he was scared. Maybe he went nuts. All I know is he let the best thing that ever happened to him walk right out of his life..... HIS loss.....but I sure didn't see it that way then. It was MY loss.
He became a real a$$ over the next few months, but again, that's another story.....
(if you know me, you know that I eventually moved on and away from the the ex-fiance'. Lucky for me, but it was because of Ron's being an a$$ and my broken heart that I moved back to Northeastern State University, because that's where I found the greatest guy ever....yep, I'm talking about Big Daddy!)
Eventually we got power. Eventually we had phone service. But it took about 2 weeks. They also were repairing the apartment building during this time, as well. (it was determined the building was structurally sound, just damaged.) I had to get my car fixed.
You'd think after all that, I'd be terrified of tornadoes. Well, the truth is, I haven't looked a tornado in the eyes since that I guess I don't really know. My suspicion is, in that situation again, I would FREAK! But, I would have to try and hide it because of my kids.
I have been thru many Tornado Watches, but I've not been in any actual danger like I was that day.
However, I am a proponent of "be prepared." I try to keep batteries and water and my "hurricane/tornado box stocked." (sadly, my box was dropped and destroyed in the I better get a new one)
And I do find it somewhat ironic, I live in Kansas, tornado alley, and the scene for the Title quote from Dorothy at the top of the page. Kinda funny, really......
(it's the stories like this that happen to me.....this is why my mom always told me I should write a book.....)
What do you think?
Do you have a burning question to ask me?
Have you been in a tornado? Tell me your experience.....


Anonymous said...

Oh my Goodness! That's such an amazing story (you're a great writer by the way!)

Where I live we had a F4 Tornado in 1987 right over the neighborhood that my family lived in. I didn't touch down near our house (about 20 kms away it did though). I was 8 at the time, and my Mom was watching my little brother and I as well as the two neighbor kids we played with. We were outside and all of a sudden what we thought was just a regular storm came up. It started raining and hailing and being kids we thought the hail was so cool! So we went inside and got empty ice cream pails to put on our heads as protection (we thought we were so smart!) and went back outside to collect hail. Some pieces were bigger than softballs! As soon as my Mom realized we were outside she made us come in, which was a good thing as 5 minutes later a tornado watch was issued. We hid in the basement until it passed and luckily nothing in our immediate neighborhood was hit or damaged too badly, but some of the surrounding areas were. We were lucky! Here's a picture of it.

The Girl from Canada

the real ~Roxann~ said...

Thank you for the kind compliment, I am glad you enjoy my blog. Wow, an F4...I would not want to be in one of those!

That is hilarious about the hail and the "ice cream pail" helmets! That mental picture of that made me laugh out loud!

At 8, were you scared or just thought it was just another storm?


Anonymous said...

You're very welcome :)

We still giggle about the ice-cream pail helmets every now and again!

I remember not being too concerned when we thought it was just a bad thunderstorm, but then when we found out it was an actual tornado I was quite scared. But it seemed to be over pretty quickly. And my Dad, smart guy that he is, when my Mom phoned him at work to tell him to come home, stops to try to get KFC for supper and a haircut. (this was before cell phones) so my Mom is freaking out that he's taking over an hour to get home when he works less than a 10 minute drive away from the house. Mom has never let him forget that one!

The Girl from Canada

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