Friday, July 19, 2013

We now interrupt your regularly scheduled summer

I wouldn't have given up the last weeks of May, first of June for anyone. Including Mother Nature. And she tried really hard.
May 20, the day before we left for Italy, I had a panicked call from the Oldest who was using someone else's phone, about 45 minutes before the end of school.

"Are you coming to get us?!"
"Not until after schools, why?"
"Have you checked the weather? There's a tornado in Newcastle and it's headed this way!" 10 miles away.

Superhero Mom mode, engage! Checking the weather, which by myphone app said it was only a thunderstorm, I then turned on the local news and the weather guys were going nuts. Just a few days prior, a tornado ripped thru a tiny town south of us. Living in "Tornado Alley" during the spring and summer is always eventful. But this year, we lived in a city that had been hit time after time, with devastating results. To make matters worse, we were without a storm shelter. Just the little area under the stairs we affectionately called the Harry Potter Closet.

Throwing the dog into the garage howling, just as the sirens started, I drove like a maniac to my children a mile away. It was the slowest mile EVER. I could see the storm building just southwest of us and the hail had already started. Rushing into the school, there were other parents and teachers hovering in the hallways, closets and tiny bathrooms with kids as this was the only safe place for them. Don't get me started on how asinine it is that Oklahoma schools don't have mandatory storm shelters! Demanding my kids come out, we covered our heads and ran for the car which was getting beat all to hell with hail.

On the drive back to the house, the kids were watching the tornado increasing in size. The stuff of nightmares. Stuffing them, the dog and every available pillow and blanket under the stairs, we waited with our bicycle helmets on. I'd been texting the Major who was trying his hardest to get home to us but didn't end up home until 5 hours later, when the power went out.

The E-F5 tornado that struck our town that day, a mile and a half passed our home, has been recorded as the worst in history. 20 people died, most of them children who were huddled in their school, like my boys had been, while the twister literally ground their school to a pulp around them. We heard the roar of it from our house, sounding very much like a freight train and could see it from our front windows after it had passed far enough east for us to get outside of the closet.

My last text from the Major was that he was along a road heading south as fast as possible. A road the tornado was headed straight toward. Thank God for social media as a FB notice later showed him safely to the south of the damaged area but streets and highways were now impassable. What a way to begin a honeymoon!!

We felt guilty leaving the next day as friends were trying to clean up the disaster. We donated everything we could from water and baby goods to money. It will take years before things are back to normal. Of course, we would be moving to the home of typhoons.

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