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Thursday, February 7, 2008

Tornado Tuesday




I am sitting here thinking about what all has happened to me and the folks in my area the past day. Super Tuesday started out with me explaining why we voted to my daughter. She thought it was cool so I had to give myself a pat on the back. Hey she’s 7, if she still believes that same thing when she is 18 I did good. My Tuesday ended not being so super. We are calling it Tornado Tuesday now. I didn’t get hit but plenty of people that I know by sight or even name did, including my family.
The sun had been shining through out the day on and off. I knew they had been talking about it raining that afternoon so I packed an umbrella into my little girl’s backpack. Got to be a mom every now and than. By the time I picked her up from school the sky had changed and you could feel something in the air.
I figured that we would get a good soaker and plenty of lightening maybe even some hail. That is our usual package here for thunderstorms. The hills I live in seem to help keep the bad stuff away. I am now wishing that was all we had gotten and my beloved Arkansas hills would have helped out a little more.
I was supposed to be helping coach the high school softball team in Cotter. I did it last year and loved every moment of it. I got to the school and the rain started coming down in buckets. I was soaked just running from the car to the front of the school. About a 20 yard dash if that.
Once inside I ran into the softball coach right away. She felt awful for not calling me to tell me practice had been cancelled. We are practicing inside the multi-purpose gym right now so we don’t have to worry about the weather and such. I told her it was ok, it is still basketball season after all and they needed to practice for district.
By the time I got back to the car I was a mop. Liz, my lovable little one was laughing. That was until I told her to look at time and think about where she would be. Just getting off the bus and into the rain, oh fun. She shut up real quick with that fact pointed out to her.
We decided to go into Mountain Home instead of going back home. She had dance class and why waste the gas. We had a nice quiet mommy and daughter dinner than went into the local bookstore. I was looking for a new book and she just loves to see them all.
While there I get this phone call form my mom. “Where are you?!” When those are the first words out of your own mom’s mouth you are in 2 situations, trouble or needing help.
Since I wasn’t in trouble for anything, yet, I figured something was up and she needed help. Mom had just gotten her foot worked on at the doctor and cant drive. I told her where and she sighed. “You better find some cover quick. The sirens are going off here and it is headed your way.”
I k new right away what she was talking about. Hearing a tornado siren is something that you either hate or rely on. When I lived in Iowa it was rely. Around here it is more for the calling of volunteer firefighters. After awhile you get used to it and don’t really worry when it goes off. This time though it was actually what they had been invented for.
I told Mom not to worry I would take care of me and Liz and to get yourself some cover. I than proceeded to call the hubbie.
For those of you that don’t know the hubbie was in Iraq for a year not to long ago. During one mission a missile was launched at his hummer and while thank god it missed it did mess up his hearing. Now if he isn’t really looking at me I make him to make sure he hears me. Hit and miss is what I call his hearing now.
He of course hadn’t heard the sirens (IDIOT) and started to look at the weather. After knowing he was going to take care of things there with my son, I went and told Liz to make a selection. I had a feeling we would either get kicked out of the store or we could hide there with them.
Once the sirens went off in Mountain Home I knew we weren’t going anywhere. I walked up the manager and asked him if we could hang out in the back with him and his employee’s. He of course said yes and that is how I spent my next hour. In a backroom at Hastings bookstore with my daughter praying nothing bad had happened.
Once somebody turned on the radio and I heard that a tornado had touched down I knew for some reason that my hubbie and son were safe. Don’t ask me how I knew but I did. Once I heard that Gassville had gotten hit I lost all the good feelings I had. My dad, step mom, aunt and cousin all live there.
I started to try to call them or anybody at that point. I had to know what was happening. I knew they were supposed to all be home bout that time from work. How bad had it hit? Where in the town had it hit? Dammnit why didn’t the damn call go through!!
Gassville is a town of about 700 to 800 folks. Small, quiet and for awhile home to me and my family. I have driven different school buses all over that town and knew a lot of the kids and their families. I had lived in a house I almost bought right there by the city park. Dammnit somebody answer their freaking phone!!
Than the worst thing in the world happened, they started talking about damage. CRAP!!! Where was my family? Had it hit Flippin before going on? Where the people I loved the most in my life gone? How in the hell was I supposed to stay calm with my daughter right there beside me?
I took a huge breath and blew it out. I had to believe in god. I know many folks don’t and that is your right. I always wonder though, how can you explain some of the things that happen in this world if there isn’t one? That is a different post for a different time.
So anyway, here I am in this back room at a bookstore with my daughter and these strangers. I knew one other person there and she wasn’t to keen on being there either with family in danger. Her 16 year old son was home in Gassville. She wasn’t sure if he was home alone or with her sister or mom. All she knew was nobody was answering at the house or on the cell phones. Talk about needing a drink. We both did at that moment.
Finally they let us out of the back room at 6. The all clear had sounded and we were free. Expect for the fact it was raining buckets, again. I think they said something like we got almost 5 inches in just a few hours. That is a lot.
The other mom was out of there like a light. Even though they weren’t allowing anybody into Gassville, she was going to go find her son. I wished her luck and went to the bathroom. Pregnant woman can not sit in a back room for an hour after drinking a glass of tea period end of discussion. After that I dashed to the car and off we went. Nobody was answering phones still but at least I knew why. The towers had been hit, great.
I drove to my cousin’s, who lives right outside of Mountain Home, making sure she was ok. To my surprise and delight my aunt and other cousin are there. Thank you god!! 2 family members down, only 2 more to go.
I stayed there and made sure they were fine and got out any info I could from them. They had tried to go home. They got as far as the beginning of town. There is a McDonald’s there. It is still standing but the golden arches were bent down around a car. The gas station that is right across from it is torn up. The state troopers told them they had to turn around. No way were they getting into Gassville right than. The only good news was my dad and step mom were safe.
Considering for the past hour and half I have been trying not to freak out this news was helping. I could at least account for almost all my family. Only the idiot hubbie, who if he died would make me a mental case, was not heard from. Considering our son, who if he was gone would kill me, was with him I was still a little bit freaking.
Finally after me trying to call for what felt like forever couldn’t get through I asked my cuz to help. First time was the winner, winner chicken dinner. The idiot answered!! “Everything is fine here. The electricity is off but we are ok. It didn’t hit us.” I swear you could hear my sigh of relief all the way to the California coast.
I started to make my way home after that call. I needed to see for myself. Yeah I call him an idiot but it is a love term in our house. When I finally got home, after having to take the long way around, I was so tore up. I wanted to know what was happening in Gassville. Were my friends ok?
I sucked in all the news I could from the radio and finally went to sleep. I wasn’t going to find out anymore that night. I just now saw pictures of the devastation that hit my town. There isn’t a main street anymore. It is just a row of a couple of places that got lucky. My fav Mexican place is gone. A great bbq place is destroyed. There used to be a trailer park in town, 65 of those things are gone. The church where a friend on mine was married destroyed.
The worst part was I hadn’t actually heard my dad’s voice yet. Me and Dad are close but have had our differences in the past. It took me many years to forgive him for not doing things I thought a dad should when I was growing up. Hell I probably won’t forgive him for everything, but we have come to an understanding on that.
I finally heard from my Dad at about noon today. I should have known the hard headed SOB would have gone to work. He was on his way back to the house to see the damage in the daylight. He told me how he had just gotten home from work and was doing some outside work real quick. He looked up and saw the rotation and could hear the rumble. My dad has been half deaf all his life so if he can hear something than that is something. He said he quickly went in the house and told my step mom to get into the bathroom and cover up. Rather than being smart about it and getting in there with her why does the man open up his front door and look out?? “There was a lot of debris flying around and it was windy.” I swear that is a direct quote from our conversation.
It is at times like that I just want to pound my head into a wall. I didn’t know if I should say ya think or here’s your sign. Instead I said I bet. The damn thing was in his freaking back yard!!! It went from his backyard up the road and took out city hall and the fire station. But my dad being the genius he is was standing in his front door watching the debris fly. I still have to decide that when I do see him after I give him a hug if I should smack him on the head like in those V8 commercials or just keep on hugging him.
To wrap this long post up, Gassville, Arkansas is destroyed. I haven’t actually been down in there but I have seen enough pictures to know it will never be the same. Gone is my easy town that has everything you need. The gas stations were both hit hard; the McDonald’s is in bad shape. All that I have heard is actually standing and in good condition is the local grocery market. Considering the City Hall is right behind it I am amazed.
All I can do right now is pray that the people that I remember seeing walking the streets in the spring time are ok. The kids that I would laugh, yell or just plain roll my eyes at are fine. The one thing I have to keep remembering is that if I hadn’t agreed with my daughter and gone into Mountain Home early I would have been driving through there when that thing hit. Would I be here typing away and telling whoever reads this about my Tornado Tuesday or would I be in the hospital? Funny how one decision changes a life huh?

1 comments:

Winter said...

I did not hear your sigh of relief out here on the CA coast you bitch! If I had I woulda known you were okay! Shiny and I were worried about ya. We're mucho relieved that you and yours are fine. *HUGS*