"…By what stretch of arrogance do you think a life form that looks like you is more important than a life form that doesn’t?”Joel Salatin


Nothing is more beneficial to your wellbeing than to look for and acknowledge those parts of everyday life that you enjoy.


"If you are happy where you are now, why does it matter how painful it was to get there?" -- Abraham


"It is no bad thing to celebrate a simple life." -- Bilbo Baggins a.k.a. The Hobbit by JRR Tolkien


"And forget not that the earth delights to feel your bare feet, and the winds long to play in your hair." -- Kahill Gibran

“And forget not




Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Me and My Tornadoes

Deidre, third grader, looking out her bedroom window
after the storm passed
Tomorrow is the 35th Anniversary of April 10, 1979, locally known as Terrible Tuesday.

I was about 6 years old the first time I heard the word tornado.  I was outside playing with a girl who lived down the street from where I lived in Lubbock.  She looked up at the sky, which had dark clouds building and said, "It looked like we're gonna have a tornado."  I asked what that was and she said, "It's a cloud that comes down to earth and sucks everybody up and kills them".

So began my fear of storms -- even though my mother said the girl's assessment was not quite accurate.

In the late 50's I got my first glimpse of a tornado.  It had touched down in Wichita Falls. We lived in Wherry Housing on Sheppard Air Force Base and our duplex neighbor, Red Fromm, came and told us if we wanted to see a tornado, come look out his back door.  We did, but by the time I squeezed between the adults, the funnel was disappearing into the cloud.


what we saw as soon as it passed
Now my fear had a visual image to inspire it.   I also had confirmation that tornadoes do exist.  My parents were not the type to get out and drive around looking at the destruction, so I still had no idea what a tornado could do.

Fast forward to 1964 (?). I was attending Rider High School in Wichita Falls. I was in Mr. Lite's math class.  Out the window, I could see an odd looking swirl of clouds moving across the ground in the distance.

When we got home after school, we found out that another tornado had struck Wichita Falls, and this time  part of Sheppard.  Since some of my mother's relatives lived in Burkburnett, we did drive by some
of the damage at the base.

our vehicles
Even though I had never seen the evidence of a tornado's power close up, it didn't lessen my fear.  I started having nightmares.

When I was 16 at the Edna Gladney Home for Unwed Mothers, I roomed with a girl who's mother had been killed in the tornado in Wichita Falls in 1964. This was confirmation that tornadoes do kill people.


Two years later I married Ronnie. 


Ronnie's parents were much more curious about stuff than mine and they had driven the family around to see the damaged areas of town. They had stories to tell of what they'd seen.



Ronnie was quoted by a Ft. Worth newspaper
My nightmares got worse.  In these dreams, the feeling of helplessness as well as a terror  which, at that point, I could only imagine were the dominant emotion.  In some of the dreams, I was on top of a hill, looking out into the distance and dozens of tornadoes were swirling around.  I'd wake up feeling so thankful that it had only been a dream.



Unfortunately, I passed the fear on to my little children.  Every time the warning sirens blew, I put them in the small laundry closet in the hallway of our frame house, pulled a mattress over us all and waited.


tree crashed into neighbor's house
When we moved from that house to this one in October of 1978, the first thing my son did was figure out which area of the house would be safest in the event of a tornado.  We decided again on a hall closet.

Six months later, on April 10th, 1979, every thought, every fear I'd ever had about tornadoes came to beat down my front door.

Two weeks before the tornado hit, I dreamed that my son and I were in my car when a tornado picked us up.  In the dream, I pushed my son down into the floor board, and held onto the steering wheel with every ounce of strength I possessed.  A huge swing set, (which I had recently seen at the flea market), constructed out of telephone pole sized timbers was coming at us, but as my car crashed to the ground, I woke up.

debris removal in front of my house

Tuesday, April 10, 1979, started out mostly uneventful until about three o'clock.  I was at work at Flowers by Spain.  My son called me crying.  He said tornadoes had hit in Seymour and were heading our way.  His dad was sleeping because he was on the
night shift.  I said, "If you're really scared, wake him up."

I left work early, but in order to get away without Mrs. Spain frowning at me, I took a delivery with me.  I got home about 4:00 to find my husband watching the weather on tv.  He and my son had already had an argument because my son wanted to forego the designated closet and go down the street to the underground culvert.


Ronnie was always skeptical.  Never in our thirteen years of marriage had he ever gotten under a mattress with us.  I had not dropped off the delivery yet, so after a lot of discussion about whether or not anything was going to happen, we all got in the car and took the plant to the recipient in the Bel Aire addition, about a mile and a half northwest of home.

On the way back, the sky out toward Iowa Park looked black as pitch and Ronnie was worried about his mother and step-dad.  The sky to the southwest looked clear. When we got out of the car in front of our house, the warning sirens were blowing.  My kids ran into the house and got in the designated closet.  I paused in front of the tv long enough to hear Lynn Walker say, "There is a tornado on the ground near the Ponderosa Estates.  Take cover now."

This is the first frame in a series of photos taken from
Hwy 79 near Dean, Tx
"Where are the Ponderosa Estates?" I asked myself but could not remember.

The kids were screaming and crying for me to come get in the closet.  Ronnie was still outside.  I was not convinced that we were in any danger, but I got in the closet anyway to give the kids some relief.

Ronnie came and got in the closet.

I knew then, we were in big trouble.

The kids were sitting on the floor at the back of this four foot deep closet.  I had to squat to get my head under the first shelf with my back to the left side wall, and when Ronnie got in, he came in facing the kids with his back against the hollow core door.


I pulled it closed behind him and held it.  Our ears popped.


It changed as it moved along
We listened to the windows breaking and debris whipping through the hall way, hitting that door with such force some times, I fully expected the 2x4 used to simulate the force of a tornado to come crashing through and impale Ronnie at any time.

The kids were sobbing. I was more frightened than I had ever been of anything in my life. Ronnie spoke.  "Paula. . . ."

I said "Shh. Listen." I felt certain if he gave up, the walls would come crashing in on us, so I wouldn't let him say his final "I love you".

After what seemed an eternity, the howling and roaring subsided.  As soon as I opened the door, though, it started again, so I pulled it closed and held it again, praying that nothing would come through it.  This time it didn't last as long. We thought the lull had been the "eye" of the storm.

the individual vortexes begin to become visible
When we came out of the closet, our whole world had been turned upside down. Our house was still standing but all the windows had blown out, debris littered the floor, insulation and asbestos shingles coated everything. The aluminum patio cover was inside the dining room. Our beautiful tress, the ones that had helped sell this house to us were broken sticks.  My car was in the middle of the yard, all the windows blown out or busted.  Ronnie's pickup was still in the driveway but all the glass gone. Both were total losses.  Standing there, looking at the devastation before us, we had no idea that the tornado was still on the ground and would remain so for over thirty more miles.

The two houses directly behind us were huge piles of debris. 

Later, after we were able to connect to cable tv, my son became addicted to the NOAA Weather Radio channel's radar.

Thank goodness by the time he graduated from high school and moved to Dallas, he was able to let go of his fear.


This looks very similar to the multiple vortex
tornadoes in my nightmares
 After Ronnie was paralyzed, a tornado watch was issued for a storm approaching our area.

I could see the worry in his eyes.  "What would you do?" he asked.


"I'd send the kids to the closet and climb up here in bed with you and just see how things go."

Howard, Deidre and I all still have an ongoing fascination for tornadoes.  We watch Stormchasers and look up tornado videos on youtube and share them with one another.

For some reason, surviving the tornado of April 10, 1979 had an opposite effect on me.  When they finally disappeared into the cloud that had spawned them, they took my fear with it.  Maybe I know that experience is once in most lifetimes.  Maybe it proved to me that it isn't an automatic death sentence, but I haven't had a tornado dream since that one two weeks before the big one hit.

From the perspective of Law of Attraction, I can certainly see how I drew this experience to me.  And as my mother said, "If you worry about something long enough and hard enough, it or something very similar will happen in your life."

Gotta get a handle on worrying.




No comments:

Post a Comment