Left With Nothing

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Left With Nothing

Post by Admin on Thu Mar 12, 2015 12:29 pm

An excerpt from Unbelievable to Reality:

Left with Nothing

It was a fairly normal spring day, and I was sitting at my computer going over the company's latest weekly financial statement. I was fortunate that I could work from home for my job, but the relentless noise from the children running through the house, and the repetitive cartoon programs would tend to grate on my nerves. They could be so loud at times that I had learned to tune the noise out. Whether it was the yelling and screaming, the blaring TV, or the litany of battery operated toy noises and screeches, I simply could not do my work if I had not learned to tune out all of the external sounds that were anything less than the recognizable sound of an injured child. I had gotten so good at turning that part of my hearing off, that it took dozens of "Mommy, Mommy, Mommies" for me to break my work trance and acknowledge that a child was attempting to get my attention, "Mommy? Bubba pee peed on the floor..."

It was on one of these quite normal days that I was just finishing my edits to the weekly financial report, and before I could save it, the screen went completely black. "NO!" I exclaimed tapping at the keyboard hoping to wake up the slumbering computer. "NO! NO! NO!" The tapping continued in vain.

"MOMMY!"
'Oh, I do not have time for this now,' I thought to myself. 'I just lost all that work!'
"MOMMY! MOMMY! MOMMY!" I could hear them running towards my office in the back of the house. As I started to rise, it was then that I realized that the power had gone out. The hallway was darkened and the children were trying to escape from the opaque light to the safety of a parent.

It was when I knelt down to capture the children running in an awkward childish waddle into my embrace that I heard the roar of a train nearby, except that there were no train tracks within miles of our neighborhood. I looked towards the bedroom window and noticed that the already dark spring day, that had forecast strong thunderstorms for later in the day, was beginning to darken quickly. It was as if a blackout shade was slowly being pulled down over the windows of the darkened house.

As the roar became ever louder, I realized it must be a tornado. Having grown up in the south, I knew of them, and I had heard stories, but this was my first. For a second I struggled to think of the proper action for the circumstance. But then I ushered my children into the master bedroom closet that had been converted into a sort of safe room. It had been lined with three-eighths inch thick bullet proof steel, or so my husband had said. It was so that we could go in there if our house was broken into, and be safe from gunfire. I had always thought of it as useless. But now, as we entered the room, it was safety. I with the kids inside, I unlatched the heavy steel door from the wall, closed it, and turned the lock. Now it was pitch black.

As the roar became so loud that I was yelling at the children in order to be heard, the room started to shake. I grasped for the hanging clothes in the darkness and piled heaps onto the children. The moderately sized closet was full of clothes and shoes and a few of various "prepper" supplies my husband had stored within. The shaking of the walls became very intense, and the noise was incomprehensible. Undescribable. I laid myself over the top of the piles of clothing that were cushioning my children. I was wondering if I had made the right choice - if one of these very heavy walls that had been set with a crane during the construction of the house fell in on us, we would all die instantly.

Then the roof of the closet simply vanished along with the roof of the house. I dared not look, but I could feel the sudden burst of wind, and the lift off of the clothing, shoes, and other unsecured items in the closet. I could even feel myself become lighter. I willed my body to be heavier as the pelting rain came down while our personal effects went up and disappeared into the inky blackness. After about a minute or so, though it felt more like an hour, the majority of the rage started to subside. The rain was falling so hard that it was actually painful. I opened my eyes as the roar of the train slowly became more distant.

As I started to raise my head to look around, taking in the large amount of foreign debris that was settling in the room, and all sort of wet papers stuck to the walls, I felt a sharp stab in my lower back. I waited a few more seconds, then slowing started to uncover my crying children. By the time I got the mass of wet clothing off of them, the rain stopped, and more light started to fill the sky. I hugged my children as I gently felt around on them for injuries.

"Mommy? What dis?" my youngest queried.
"What sweetheart? Are you ok?"
"Yeah Momma, I OK. Dis? What Dis?"
My young daughter was pointing to something behind me. I looked over my shoulder but could only see the carnage left behind. How was I going to explain that to a two-year old?
"Sweetheart, that is all of the stuff that..."
"No Momma. That?"
Again she was pointing behind me. I turned to investigate. The shrill scream pierced the sounds of the lingering wind and sounds of debris still pinging off the sides of the still erect metal room.
"WHAT?" I turned back to face them, their faces filled with horror.
"MOMMY! MOMMY! MOMMY!" the kids were exclaiming as the inconsolable crying began.
"WHAT is it? What?"
"Mu...Mu...Mom...Mommy. You're...um...you're..."
"What? What's going on?"

The pain was abominable. My unconscious physical reaction was to slap my child's hand away from my body which was in the area of the pain, and my scream only served to make the children cry harder and scream louder. I could see a bloody object about a foot long sticking out of my back, and jutting off to the right. The was a steady drip of crimson fluid coming off of the end. I bit down hard on my bottom lip to try and maintain my composure during the waves of pain.

I looked down at my children, with tears of agony streaming down my face, "It's OK. Mommy will be OK." I tried to reassure them, but they knew better. "We need to try to get out of here. Help Mommy move this stuff away from the door."

Slowly the kids began to stop crying as the attention was diverted to work. We each grabbed what we could to clear the doorway. After a few minutes, I was able to unlock the door and open it enough that we could squeeze through the opening, making sure not to bump the protruding object as I exited. The destruction was unfathomable. The gaining light of the day showed the full fury of the tornado. For as far as one could see, there was nothing left of the neighborhood except for piles of rubble. Most of the trees were gone, and any that were left no longer had any of their new spring leaves. Cars were destroyed and left in heaps, nowhere near the areas they had originally been parked.



"What dat smell, mommy?"
"I don't know. Let's keep moving over that way," I led as I pointed the way. "Watch were you are stepping."
"What happened? Where's our house?" another child asked.
"It was a tornado. Everything is gone. We need to keep moving."

I knew the kids did not understand, but there was little I could tell them. I need to keep their minds focused. I could see our old Ford Excursion sitting on its wheels in the front yard. It looked as if it had been rolled over once and landed back on its feet. Though dented and a few windows missing, it looked useable. If nothing else, we could use it for shelter.

"Go over to the truck. Watch your step." As we made it to the truck, I remembered all our of stored goods were in the heavily built shed in the back yard. Glancing back in that direction, there was nothing there. No food, no water, no guns, no medical supplies, nothing. There should be some bottles of water in the truck, along with some other items. I reached through the broken rear passenger's window and unlocked the door. It took some force to open it, and it did its best to resist, creaking and moaning the whole way. I did not see any broken glass inside, so assisted the children into the back seats. They found the bottled water and started to drink.

The blast wave caught me just as I had turned to look over the neighborhood. Though I was only a couple of feet from the SUV, the power of the neighbor's exploding natural gas line under the debris drove me back into the side of the tuck with amazing force. When I came to, my children were crying again, and the pain in my side, head, and chest were overpowering. I felt like vomiting. The combination of the ringing in my head, and the children's crying made me feel like I was extremely intoxicated. I pushed myself up off of the ground, and noticed that I now had an object protruding out of my abdomen. I looked like a shorter version of the one that I had sticking out of my back. I looked around toward my back, and could see that the one that was there was now a lot shorter than it had been before. The impact with the truck had force the object all the way through.

I turned to look at myself in the large tinted rear window of the truck, but it wasn't there. The shifting images I was seeing through the fog in my head would have prevented me from seeing anything clearly anyway. I moved to the rear door and could see that all of my children had bloody faces and they were covered in broken glass. Other than the crying, they appeared amazingly calm, just sitting there with bloody faces and arms, holding their water bottles, hair blown askew and mottled with dirt and twigs. The heat was intense? Why was it so hot? Why do my children look like that? Why is it so smokey? Man I took a hard blow to the head.

I shook my head a few times in an attempt to clear it.
"MOMMY!" came the piercing screams all at once. "FIRE! FIRE!"

The kids were trying to scramble out of the broken window on the other side of the truck. I turned to see the neighborhood quickly being engulfed in flames. The remains of my adjacent neighbor's house was a bonfire, and the remains of our home were starting to catch. Debris in the yard was on fire. I reached down to my side for the keys in my purse. I didn't feel anything. I continued patting my sides in vain as I looked down to notice my purse was not on my side. Where was it? Why do I not have my purse? How am I going to save my children without keys to the truck?

As I stood dumbfounded in the yard, my kids had exited the truck and were pulling at my clothes to get my attention.
"C'mon mommy!"
"Momma! Momma! We got go!"
"Let's go!"
I finally snapped out of my delirium. With the kids in tow, we quickly, but cautiously moved down the street away from the fire. The children always looking out for me as much as I looked out for them. Nearly half a mile down the street, we ran into a police officer who's car had four flat tires and was on the phone to dispatchers in another county. Eventually were were escorted to an area that had been cleared and vehicles could come in and out. We were picked up by a school bus that was from a school district I had never heard of.

•••••

It turns out that our region, a rural subdivision of which our community was located, had been impacted by seven different tornadoes, almost simultaneously. The strong F4 that hit us destroyed property over a 30 mile long stretch, and it was the least devastating of the seven. The fire that followed, destroyed any homes that were still standing. The entire community was lost. Even the people who had running vehicles had to flee on foot because the debris either prevented travel, or flattened every tire.

The object that impaled me was a piece of metal from a roof truss of a house that was miles away. Though painful, it I was lucky that it did very little damage internally. I will have the physical scars forever, but the metal scars are the worst. My children were all young, and hopefully this does not unduly damage them over the long term.

My husband was 900 miles away on business at the time. He could not get back to us for nearly five days because he was snowed in, and all flights had been cancelled, and the roads were impassible. We were fortunate that a wonderful community that my husband was associated with had flooded the town following the tornadoes. We knew quite a few of them personally, and they took wonderful care of our children, while I was hospitalized and before Damon could return. Even after Damon returned, they were around and helping with the recovery.

These people showed up with box trucks that had full kitchens in them. Sometimes they would rotate in and out for a week or two at at time. There was another group that had big tents set up. Some had showers, while others had supplies of blankets, pillows, toys, camp stoves, sleeping bags, and much more. There was a small group in another box van that seemed to be coordinating everything for those who were leaving and arriving to help. Once group even came in and helped the neighborhood salvage anything of value. One of their mechanics would fix anything he could, and asked if he could keep the parts of the things he couldn't. The best part though was the group that arrived to administer basic first aid. Because all of the hospitals and clinics were overcrowded with patients, these mobile doctors and medics were able to help a lot of people with minor injuries.

I though we had lost everything. But I found out that was not true. Damon had stored a significant amount of materials and supplies at a friends place that was on the other side of the state. The friend and the items he held, along with the rest of the responders from SurSan provided us with most of the basics to start over. We were back on our feet long before insurance had fully settled our claim, even though we now live somewhere else.

Even though the experience was traumatic, and we will have long lasting scars, and we had to leave behind a house and area we loved and always intended to stay in, and because of the preparations Damon had made and with the help of the SurSan community, the transition was smoother than I could have ever imagined, considering we were very suddenly forced to leave everything at a moments notice.

I learned a lot. I hope you did too.

Jaycee
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