Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Twisters and tumbleweeds

I read a story today about a little boy who survived a tornado after being ripped from his mother's arms by the storm and thrown approximately 500 feet. His mother did not survive, and he was found, face-down, in the mud by a police officer searching the area.

Living in an area that - according to City-Data.com - has an historical tornado activity average 105% higher than the U.S. national average, this story stood out to me quite a bit. We just had a storm recently wherein the tornado sirens went off just as I was putting our daughter, Ariana to bed. Here's what you know when you hear those sirens blaring and a tornado warning has been in effect: A tornado has touched down in your area and you have approximately five minutes (or less) to get to safety.

So... I ran down two flights of stairs with my daughter in tow as Andy tried to convince the dog to join us in the basement, and we frantically tried to get the weather channel tuned in on our hand-cranked radio while avoiding multiple pools and streams of water running across the floor.

I grew up in Illinois, which meant tornado drills every year all through elementary school. Single file line marching out the classroom and down the hallway to crouch, head-facing-lockers, upon the floor... our arms thrown over our heads to protect us from hypothetical debris. It reminded me of the atom bomb drills done during the 50s with my parents' generation. A knowingly lacking exercise that would fall short of actual readiness and adequacy should a disaster indeed occur.

The little boy is going to be raised by his grandparents. He was less than a year old when he lost his mother... so he will not remember her... will not remember how she shielded him from the storm in the bathtub, hiding and praying underneath a mattress. The storm was too strong. The roof, the mattress, and the people within the house were all blown apart and tossed into the wind. One landed safely, one did not.

Perhaps we fight against feeling powerless. Perhaps we fight to feel prepared in the midst of true chaos - the kind only nature can conjure up. Unpredictable, unforgiving, and often unfair. True disasters, and their aftermaths, can simultaneously convince us of the absence and the existence of God.

I wonder which side of the argument this little boy will fall on when he can finally understand the full extent of what happened in that storm.

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