I realize that today is NOT May 3rd, but I figure, it’s my blog, I can be a day late! 😉 I’m just feeling the need to do a little reflecting. For those of you who are not from Oklahoma, on May 3rd, 1999, we had a gazillion deadly tornadoes zig-zag through our state on that day. If you were in the area or had loved ones in the area, you recall exactly where you were, am I right?
Our family was going through a transition period during that time. We had recently moved back from Texas, our house was still leased out to some folks we were in the process of evicting for non-payment, we were living in a dump while waiting for “the process”, my husband was changing careers, and I was sick. I had just come back from the doctor and was on the sofa watching television when it began south and west of us. Hubby was out with our boys, fishing. Then the weather break-in started. It was still in the afternoon. I called out to where the guys were and told them to be “heads-up” for storms. This was pretty common, so we would just make sure we were “aware”. I’m going to skip the details of the next few hours of happenings and take you to the moment we discovered a safe room would not be strong enough for this tornado. We were listening to Gary England on Channel 9, and he said, “Folks, you need to be underground for this one.” We didn’t HAVE underground. And we put TOTAL trust in Gary England. So we had to get creative. We jumped into the jeep with another family, seven of us in all, and started driving to the back of this eighty acre property. A new tin horn had recently been buried, and there was room for all of us. The pounding rain had hit, the winds so strong, it was difficult keeping the jeep on path, the hail began to pounce. We drove faster. Finally arriving. ~The guys handed the kids down into the ditch to crawl into the tin horn, we followed. The water was already present in the bottom of it. Our oldest child had on his brand new tennis shoes. He hesitated….I assured him we could get more shoes….”Just GO”! The tornado was so huge. In fact, we didn’t realize it was the tornado. It looked like a large cloud on the ground. The entire time underground, we kept thinking of our loved ones that were in its path. We started trying to call and give warning from “the hole”. It missed us by approximately 300 yards. Others were not so fortunate.
As soon as it passed, we piled back into the jeep and started behind it. The destruction and devastation we came upon we will never forget. And the smell, I wish I could explain that smell. A mix of rain and evergreen from the ripped up trees and natural gas. At some points, we didn’t even know where we were in our own stomping grounds, because the houses and churches were gone. Ponds were full of dead cows. Running trucks were lodged in trees. Standing houses were doused with mudcakes. This was one of the longest nights ever. We had to make certain that friends and family were okay. Dozens of phone calls from people we hadn’t talked to in years were wanting to hear the story first hand. Feeling helpless, but needing to help.
Nope, a May 3rd cannot pass without all of this, and more, going through my mind. And each time I hear of an area hit by a “twister”, I am reminded and I get that same feeling in my gut. First of hopelessness and devastation. Then of hope. And by the way, that dump we were renting, well….I guess it wasn’t so bad after all. We had a roof over our heads when many did not. I called and got renter’s insurance the next day….;)