Here in the mid-Atlantic, tornadoes rarely threaten. However, along the Tennessee/Alabama state line, where I grew up, spring routinely brings tornado outbreaks. These photos are from Easter morning 1984. That window, the one nearly hidden by leaves, was my bedroom.
There’s a pale blur of silhouette, in the back yard, that is one of our confused chickens. I don’t know where they were, when the storm hit, or how they survived. I was in bed. It was about four AM when the wind grew and grew and grew into a furious whistle and wail. I remember fear, and the wincing spasm of muscle and nerve when our roof shifted with a BANG.
After the storm, after it was too late to bother with safety, we gathered in the middle of our dark house. Despite having no warning, everyone was safe and unharmed.
Mother and my older sisters surveyed the damage, which was minor. I wanted only to check on my cat. Mischief had delivered kittens, days earlier, in one of the sheds. Mother made me wait until sunrise, which may have been the longest hour of my young life. When I opened the shed, Mischief greeted me with her usual cry and purr. I remember counting her kittens, even though it was obvious they were safe.
For that matter, all of the animals were safe. The chickens, whose roosts had been rearranged so rudely, gossiped and fussed for a few hours, then returned to their interrupted routine.
The peach tree (which had never produced peaches) was a total loss, and one of the small maples in the back yard. The older trees survived, survive yet, despite losing much of their upper growth.
Here in 2012, just this morning, a classmate from high school picked up her children after a tornado damaged their school. I don’t know how she survived the minutes between hearing the news and holding her kids. Simply reading her Facebook update, her few sentences confirming that the kids are okay, made my heart race.
And this afternoon my heart still races, because the day is not over. I want to curl, catlike, around my loved ones. Around all the ones they love, and everyone in the storm’s path. Please stay safe.