I grew up in tornado alley. I remember having to clear out the hall closet pretty much every spring at least once, usually more than once, to huddle in it with my brother and my mom while my dad stood out on the front porch watching the sky. My whole body would shiver with fear, and my mom would tell me to wrap up in another blanket. I worried about our dogs who couldn’t fit with us and my father who insisted on standing watch.
When I got older, there were a few occasions where I was home alone with my brother, and it would be my responsibility to clear out the closet and get my brother to grudgingly sit in the closet and while I would nervously watch the news in my bedroom across the hall and wait, worried about my parents not being there, worried about what we’d do if something happened.
For as long as I can remember, I’ve had nightmares about tornadoes. Sometimes I watch them from a distance, dozens of them, impossible to predict where they’ll go. Sometimes I’m caught in them, flying in a cloud of debris over the place where I grew up.
Yesterday, I found out about the Moore tornado when friends started commenting on other friends’ pictures and videos of their homes destroyed on Facebook. I watched as a handful of people I know in the area let people know they were safe, what shape their homes were in, whether they had electricity or phone lines.
I watched the news in horror as stories of tiny children trapped in a school poured out. I remembered all the tornado drills I went through in my childhood, can still feel the cool hardness of the cement floors under my knees as I’d crouch down and cover the back of my head with a book while the teachers walked up and down the hall to make sure we were doing what we were supposed to. I remember thinking even than that that hallway wasn’t safe, with its doors and glass windows on either end.
Today, right now, the town where I grew up is under tornado warning. The sirens went off a mile from my childhood home. My mom and her school probably had to do exactly what I remember doing each spring: line up single file, walk out into the hall, and crouch down. And wait. Even after the immediate danger passes, the watch will continue into the night as the same storm system passes through.
I worry, and I hope everyone I love–and everyone I don’t know–comes through it all safely.
I hate tornado season.