Photo by Sue Ogrocki/Associated Press
The AP caption says the Picher, Okla. firefighter is rescuing the dog, so I’m going to presume the dog is fine. Otherwise I wouldn’t wanna post the pic.
I’m at work, and just heard a loud crack of thunder. Now I can hear the rain outside. Supposedly we’re going to get more bad storms today. But maybe no tornadoes. Maybe. Sigh. This has been one of the busiest tornado seasons ever, and I think it’s stirred up some phobias from my childhood. OK, namely one: A fear of tornadoes.
I’d be little and my mom, dad and brother would be at my grandparents’ house and we’d all go pile into the storm shelter out in a field. It was cobwebby and cold. I remember the cold metal and sometimes the flashlights being the only light we had. I’d be scared, and my mom would try and comfort me. My grandfather would sit on the stairs with the storm cellar door open, watching the sky. And we’d always emerge and things were fine. But my parents still have a story of a huge tornado that hit when my mom was pregnant with my brother.
The fear continued for a while. During storms, tornado warnings, sometimes even tornado watches, I’d be the first one in the closet at home. I was obsessed with watching The Weather Channel and making sure nothing bad was happening. A relative noted they’d never seen a young girl watching the weather as much as me. But I did.
I got older, and it, like many of my other obsessive tendencies, subsided somewhat. If a storm came, I’d worry about it when it got bad. I’d worry about it when it was time to worry about it, and not too much beforehand. During a hurricane, I slept until the lights went out. At one point, the sirens went off, and I woke up annoyed with them for disturbing my sleep. Not scared, but annoyed.
Then this year came. It has to be the busiest tornado and just shitty weather season of my lifetime. In February, bad storms killed people. A relative was close to the storms, and knew people who died in them. And then last month, more shit. Well, shit throughout the past few weeks, but the worst of it was about a month ago, when there were three effin tornado sirens in one night. I was shaking and scared and I felt like the little girl in me was back. I wanted to be in a cellar somewhere, but I couldn’t be. So I just had to sit near an interior wall and come closer to praying than I have in a while.
Here’s what gets me: I was alone. I think more than a tornado, I’m scared of a tornado hitting while I’m alone. Is it a fear of dying alone? Maybe. If I’m at work with other people, it’s easier, somehow.
Mostly, though, when the damn sirens are wailing and the rain is pounding, I want my mom. I really do. I miss her. Haven’t seen her in months, because of various crap, like money and hail damage to cars and such. Sometimes I wonder what the point is in living relatively close to her if I almost never see her. If that’s the case, maybe I should move farther away to somewhere that’s calling me. Actually, places are pretty much always calling me. I’m just never quite sure how or when to answer.
So, here I am, hating tornado season again. It’s worse when I’m tired, which I definitely am now. And it’s worse after I read about all the disasters that happen in other places, like the ones in Missouri and Oklahoma last weekend. Yet I can’t stop myself from reading them, either. It’s a sickness. Other times, I can be going on my merry way, trying not to worry too much, when I hear a loud crack of lightning and nearly have a heart attack. Once something like that woke me up and I could not go back to sleep, and it took forever for my heart to stop racing.
My grandfather and to a lesser extent my mother can just watch the clouds and the sky and tell just how bad things will get. I can watch the radar and all that. But when the stupid TV is going off, or the radio emergency alert system is going off-I swear, are those noises designed to make you as jumpy as possible? Not that I need help there-I just want it to stop. Even if the tornado is in another part of the county, they still sound the sirens everywhere. Which I can sort of understand, but you associate noises like that with fear and “Oh shit, grab the mattress.” Even if I know, logically, that the storm isn’t as bad as it sounds, because I’ve picked up a bit on what are “good” and “bad” sounds, plus the TV guys are usually on nonstop if we get a rain shower.
I was reading a story about the tornadoes in Picher, Okla., and a woman there had a quote along the lines of, “It didn’t feel like nature. It felt evil. It felt personal.” And, even though I’ve never had a tornado directly over me and don’t want to anytime soon, I think I knew exactly what she meant.