April 27, 2011
Aeolus on a Tear
My husband took this photo about two weeks after. We no longer know the exact location.
The whole town still talks about it at gatherings, and in store checkout lines. Sometimes I can’t quite believe it really happened, I mean, I know it did, but there’s that feel of unreality about it, like the mind has trouble acknowledging an event that is both not everyday, and extreme.
Here in the forest where we live, the lights didn’t actually go out until 5:13 pm, the instant the tornado hit in town. If we’d been home at that time, we would have learned the storm was serious, and headed this general way, right before the power, and all information, was gone. Instead, we were at my Mom’s house in town. My husband, my Mom, and I were in the actual freakin’ F4 tornado. I wrote up the experience, and the aftermath, here:
It’s lengthy, but about five pages gets us through the storm and back out at home. After leaving Mom’s neighborhood the tornado tracked through other communities, but not our home. None of them are very far away, and all are intertwined. Everyone knows people who were in the tornado, or close.
This time of year, we’re uneasy, partly from memories stirred, and partly because it’s a new severe weather season. Spring here comes with contrasts of intensities. This can happen:
But so can this:
Long range forecasts indicate possible severe weather on April 26 and 27. It’s far too early to say exactly when and what.
There were after-effects on the psyche. Many still have them. I’m easygoing, but I was far more on edge, hot-tempered and bold for awhile. I was encountering disparaging remarks saying that “rednecks”, or some other designation indicating rural dwellers, always say the tornado sounds like a freight train, ha ha ha. Despite my resolve to let all things go when online, that made me actually speak out on occasion. I can do that now, I can “pull rank”, I’ve been there. I did stop short of writing an entire snarky essay, “Wind Storm Survivors Guide to Metaphor”, but the fact is, a train is a large, traveling mass of loud energy and the storm roar as I heard it was a match. Trains aren’t exclusively rural. I first heard and saw one in a suburban neighborhood; trains also run through cities. Train sounds, images, and associations are widely used in comparisons of many sorts, because they’re an experience common to so many localities. Another noise cited often by tornado survivors is jet engine roar, also a mass of moving loud energy. Now, if we stop and really listen to an oncoming train, we both get nervous.
Whenever I go through something that alarms me, I tell myself I got through the tornado, I’ll get through this . . .
We’re still fixing the house and it’s become wearing, but overall I’m glad we chose not to tear the structure down. It now has a reinforced safe room, and it’s pet friendly housing. When my husband began work right outside the bathroom where we survived the storm, he found 33 indentations in the walls from wind-driven debris.
Time helps, but we are not over it, there are too many shadows to outpace. I now understand PTSD in a way I couldn’t before. If you’ve lived here a long time, you see the difference in the trees. You always know, you’ve just entered the tornado zone. It sinks my spirits every time. It won’t matter how much fixing up everyone does, it will be a long, long time, before foliage shoots up and out, trunks thicken, and the canopy evens up again. Those empty spaces were overgrown for awhile, and had an awful lonely feel:
We are still looking for the cat we lost that day, Tiger.
I look back with gratitude for three years of life and experiences we almost didn’t have. We’re fortunate to have survived, and I’m grateful, but there are interior changes that just don’t fade. So much will never be the same. In the distant past I liked thunderstorms, I liked wind – Shelley’s “Ode to the West Wind” was among my favorite poems – but now wind only brings deep fear, and unrest. I tend to personify impersonal forces of nature, similar to what you see in so much poetry and legend. If there was a way, I’d want to hunt down and destroy tornadic storms.
Like Captain Ahab and the whale, there’s no letting go.
Everyone please keep up with your local weather conditions, and review current advice for survival during severe weather.
The next post will be more upbeat, and colorful . . .