The Hideous Storm
Then it happened, and we knew it wasn’t a drill.
The eerie tornado siren was clamoring through the wet air and piercing my senses with panic. I could feel my heart palpitating in my chest and the blood coursing through my veins. In every room the television was tuned into a news station with the newscasters saying ominously, “…in El Paso, Teller, and Lincoln counties there are tornado warnings…we have multiple cloud formations showing us the imminent danger in these areas. Please take cover immediately.”
I was four hours into my shift at the nursing home where I work. Yet, just a few hours earlier as I walked through the doors at two o’clock, the skies were a pale blue, with white puffy clouds dotting the skies, and brilliant sunshine was caressing my skin. I could smell freshly cut grass and the birds were singing. It was the kind of summer day that I wished I was at the pool, soaking up the sun smelling the chlorine and hearing children’s laughter and splashing.
As my shift continued, it seemed it was a typical day. By six o’clock the residents had eaten and my co-workers and I were settling in the routine of helping them to bed for the night. We were all aware of the impending storm. The smell of rain in the air was a cruel harbinger of what was to come. The winds began to blow and hail pummeled the building, the trees outside, and the flowers the gardener had so carefully planted. Then it happened, and we knew it wasn’t a drill. The shrill of the tornado siren clamored through the air and immediately, I could feel the rush of adrenaline permeate through my body. We gathered all the residents (except those too stubborn to be moved) into the main hall. Those who refused to be moved had blankets and mattresses over them and we placed their beds in the center of their rooms. Then there was a frightening silence, and I waited for the train whistle I’d heard about that accompanied tornadoes.
In an effort to calm the residents, hymnals were given out and the charge nurse began to lead them in song. They were old hymns that evoked memories of my childhood, sitting beside my mother and siblings in church. We continued to hear updates over the news. The latest was that there were five tornadoes in our area which had already touched down. My husband called from home and informed me the sirens were sounding there as well. He told me to be safe and that he loved me. I hung up and felt a lump in my throat and tears welled in my eyes. Would that be the last time I would hear his voice? I left the nurse’s station and went back into the resident crowded hall. Now they were singing “Silent Night…..all is calm, all is bright.” The most fearful feeling worked its way up my spine and left me almost breathless. I went to stand beside Erma, a lady who had quickly worked her way into a special spot in my heart. I was prepared to use my body as a shield for her. What seemed like an eternity of two hours crept at a snail’s pace until finally we received an all clear phone call from the fire department.
My shift ended and as I stepped out onto the rain soaked street and saw the broken tree branches all around me, I was thankful to have survived such a horrendous night. I would see my family and home intact when I arrived.
I will never forget that night. It changed me. From that day on, I would not take the people I love for granted. It taught me to embrace the moments I have and to cherish my life.