Tuesday, May 8, 2007

Total wipe out

Can you imagine the town you live in being totally wiped off of the map? It's hard to fathom that the people of Greensburg, Kansas no longer have an entire city left to call their own. Following the aftermath of what was considered to be an "F-5" tornado, the town in lower Kansas has been "leveled" and the death toll is now up to 11 people killed.
Hailing from the Midwest myself, my family moving to Iowa, from Missouri when I was the ripe old age of 8.
I know something of tornado's. Having lived through many terrifying moments myself when tornado "warnings" were taking place, meaning a tornado was IN the area. These things are scary, they are very dangerous and they know no friends. They take no prisoners. They rampage and they kill, plus,there isn't much you can do about them except run and hide where ever you can find shelter.

Now this was a challenge and a fear for my family many times because we lived in a trailer for the most part of my growing up years.
Trailers are NOT safe at all during a tornado if they are in the path of one. They are picked up and thrown or rolled over like toys. All we could do is get in the bathroom and hope for the best.
The interesting thing is that many times I wasn't even home for these frightful events. Tornadoes rise up when you least expect them all it takes is a storm and in your heart, you learn when there is going to be one. The color of the sky, the sound of the air......the rain stops, the sightings of funnels. There are all demeanor of ways to know in you "gut" when a tornado is approaching.
Once when I was in 9th grade, I was at a friend's house and we were going to go to Omaha that night to see the movie "Tommy"....yeah I know, I know, dumb movie, but I was 14 okay!
Just give me a chance here, what I am trying to show you is that when these things happen, it's like a "9/11" moment. You never forget where you were or what you were doing.
We were going to see this movie, and I was at the friend's house already, their parents were going to drive us across the river to Omaha, when before we know it, there are not just one, but THREE tornado's on the ground in West Omaha, right where we were going. We spent a long time in this family's basement listening to the radio reports of how the city was being hit severely by these three tornado's and I can't remember much more than that. Except we didn't go to the movie of course, and when all was said and done a great part of Omaha lay devastated.

A few years later after I took a job while still in High School, I worked in Omaha at a Wholesale Company as a front office clerk. The owner, the man I worked for lost his home. It was wiped out while I hid in my friend's basement across the river in Council Bluffs. He would tell us stories of how he was on his way home from work and could hardly believe his eyes as he drove through the destruction trying to get to his home and family. Upon his arrival he found not only his house but the surrounding areas gone or nearly destroyed. This event was something that would mark them for the rest of their lives.

Once in High School a tornado was hitting nearby while I was shopping at the local Mall. Suddenly they were on the speaker system for the Mall tell us where we should all go. I along with the girls I was with were not allowed to leave as Mall security wouldn't let us. Instead we were allowed to "cower" in the hall areas, which seemed a bit crazy since there was nothing but glass above us. After some time passing, we got through that incident unharmed.

Oddly, a few years ago I was back home visiting and my sister Jerri and I took my daughter Ariel to Omaha to check out this cool store we always go to when I am home. It's known for it's huge assortment of craft supplies and all kinds of hard to find items in that arena. It had been storming a bit earlier that morning but it had stopped where we lived so we set out for the day. On the way over from Council Bluffs, we were on the interstate and the sky's looked strange.
I remember telling my sister Jerri "hummm, sort of looks like tornado weather."
I told you that you can always tell. It's some sort of strange "Sixth sense" that you can feel. You just "know" when there's one approaching and then hope your wrong.

Sure enough, once we got inside the store and hadn't been shopping long, the city's warning system goes off......thank GOD for those things! Why don't they have sirens in Louisiana I will never know because we get tornados in this state too!

The kind lady on the store's intercom system tells everyone to go to please go to the back of the store, so not wanting to leave and take our chances driving out into a tornado, we, like cattle, follow the many shoppers and employees like a herd to the back where they then proceed to put us all in their storeroom area. Weird and the power failed too. Nice and dark in the store with only window lighting from the front came in at first. Then emergency generators gave us some bit of lighting but it was dim to say the least. Especially in the store room.

We sat back there for a good bit of time too. My daughter Ariel was scared to death, sad little thing. She had never been in a tornado situation like this before and out in public too. We reassured her that everything was going to be fine and wither she believed us or not, she sat there quietly and looked around at all the strange boxes and flowers and other stuff, like we all did.
At some point I looked up and saw an elderly couple that looked familiar and I asked them......."Are you the Kaufman's?" to which they replied "Yes" and I introduced myself to them......because they rarely see me due to us living so far away, but there huddled in the storeroom with us was my husband Don's Aunt Janet and Uncle Bob from Council Bluffs, who I hadn't seen in years. They were there by chance just like we were, just wanting to do some shopping, not realizing that in a few moments all of our lives would be in danger.
Small world.
None of us know what crashing things that can happen to bring people together.
I know that the people of Greensburg, Kansas are learning that lesson right now. Many people will (hopefully) come to their aid now.
People they didn't count on ever meeting nor probably wanted to under these types of circumstances. Organizations like the Red Cross and others are there already to feed and help them begin to sift through the debris that is all that is left behind of what they used to call "home."
They will mourn with friends and families in the next few days and weeks. Then they will begin the omnious tasks that will take months and even years.
To rebuild not only their town, but their lives.

Our lives are so fragile and we don't even know it until many times it's too late.
Thank GOD for "second chances" when they come. Sometimes they don't. Those 11 people who were killed have no more opportunities, for them, this thing we call "life" is now over.

All because of a mere bit of wind.

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