Wednesday, 27 April 2011
My Tornado story....
We were stupid Monday night – just plain stupid. There’s no other way to call it. There were storms everywhere and we “poo-pooed” the idea that anything bad could happen.
We arrived in Conway just minutes before things got really crazy. Suddenly, the sirens were going off and all the traffic seemed to have disappeared from the roads. We parked the car and ran into the local Wal-Mart to find everyone in the center of the store; silent and waiting.
I suppose we only waited two or three minutes. It seems the whole “tornado warning” thingie was going on while we were on the road. At any rate, after a couple of minutes the store manager came on the intercom and allowed the crowd to disperse and continue shopping.
I’m sure someone is going to be offended here; I don’t know what to tell you. I’ve gotta say it. It's part of the story. If it makes you feel any better, I slightly offended myself.
As the crowd started to spread out, and we tried to make our way to the other side, I realized that Mexico was right in the middle of the Wal-Mart store. I honestly think we were the only white family in the store.
Scratch that. Jack and I were the only completely Caucasian customers in the store (Don is a beautiful blend of Portuguese and Native American).
If you read this blog often, you also know that I was pretty close to a panic attack at this time. I hate crowds. I hate Wal-mart. I wanted to be safe in my little cocoon where no strange people could brush against me as they passed, where I didn’t have to return friendly smiles and say excuse me, and where I didn’t have to wonder why Mexico was in the middle of Wal-mart.
I was so stressed that I verbally vomited out the words, “Why the hell are we passing through Mexico to get to the other side of the store? Is Wal-mart where the Hispanic community gathers for tornadoes? Does this make me Hispanic now because I’m here for the tornado too?”
“Good Lord. That’s just wrong,” says Don.
“Well, don’t you find it strange?”
At this point he ignored me and we kept walking. But, he also put himself between me and the crowd. With the kids behind me and Don in front of me, I felt like I had my cocoon back and I made it to the other side without incident.
When we made it out of the store things were starting to get bad again so, we decided to go across the street and wait it out at a local restaurant and have dinner. We were there an hour, watching the TV stations cover the weather, thinking maybe there’d be a break soon and we could leave. Finally, we decided to make a break for it. It was only ten miles. We thought we could get there before the next round. We almost did.
Just as we reached our exit the weather guy on the radio announced a “Tornado Emergency” for our exact location. We were hearing things like “take cover”, “debris markers” and “rotation”. Suddenly, we couldn’t see to drive any further. My truck began to bounce; not shake, not rock, but straight up and down bounce. There were bunches of leaves, branches and other debris I couldn’t really identify hitting the side of my truck. There was a solid sheet of wind and rain blocking our path. We could pull over, but we couldn’t get out of the truck. It was loud. I don’t even think I have the words to describe the sounds we were hearing.
That was the longest thirty seconds of my life with J in the back seat crying, “Am I gonna die?”
We did finally make it home physically unharmed. We had no power, but we were safe.
Folks, I’m convinced that “debris cloud” is exactly what turned into a tornado and destroyed Vilonia. Vilonia is a straight line northeast of where we were. Saltillo and Black Oak are right behind where I live.
I’ve looked at the pictures today of my hometown and, while thankful that all my Vilonia friends and family are safe, I am just devastated at what I’ve seen. I feel like the world has gone crazy and I hate that I have to be at work rather than helping with clean up.
I hope they all know they are in my thoughts and prayers.
I’m going to head home and hug my kids.
Posted by Erica Tomlin