Keep Your Arms and Legs Inside the Ride at All Times

tornado moore 5-31-13 023 (2)After four sacrificial years away, leaving to find work to support us while I finished writing my first book, my husband and the father of our daughter, finally returned to live with us. He rode up that day on his Harley, the man I fell in love with, the free spirit I searched a lifetime to find. All he carried with him was a change of clothes and his toothbrush. He returned just in time to watch our daughter perform at her big dance recital.

The following Monday we headed off if in a torrential down pour for Oklahoma to retrieve his car and some of his belongings, and for me to see my oldest son as he prepared to move to California. I knew I shouldn’t have been driving. The roads were slick and the tires on my car were bald. I could feel us hydroplaning several times. With low visibility, in spite of knowing how to drive in weather, driving is his expertise. Before I had the opportunity to find a dry place to stop and let him take over, the car was doing a donut and heading for the ditch, rear end first. It was an omen of what was to follow.

It took over an hour for the tow truck to arrive and get us back on the road. As we drove southwest, we found dry roads ahead. The rest of the trip was uneventful, but as we headed down I-44 west of Tulsa, I received a text from my son asking where we were. We had another hour and a half of driving and he told me to hurry up and get to Oklahoma City, bad weather was on its way.

Emergency weather alerts were broadcast on all channels. We were being told we had two hours at best before damaging winds and hail along with dangerous tornadoes, some possibly in the F4 or F5 category, would be over the city. We arrived at my sister-in-laws as several tornadoes were reported in El Reno and Yukon, 30 miles west of us. Fortunately, they were real slow-moving. The thought was to stay at the house hoping we might be missed or that we’d be safe in the underground portion of her house.

My son, who’s vicinity was near us, said he was sticking it out at his home suddenly sent me a text. He was heading for a friends in Moore as the storm steadily moved in a northeast direction. That made me grow concerned as he is a calm, intelligent, and rational young man. As we watched on TV, the tornado was heading our way and with panic the weather reports were calling for “EMERGENCY WEATHER ALERT”.

We got in our cars, three separate vehicles, as we didn’t want to come back and find they had all been damaged by the reported softball size hail. My husband drove his sister’s van taking our daughter. I didn’t want her to be in another accident with me at the wheel. His oldest son with his pet ferret and his sister followed behind us.

Heading down I-44, there were dark skies up ahead. The weather man reported the tornadoes were right on our tale, passing over landmarks we had just driven by. The sky to the south was clear and blue, so once we got to I-35 we turned south along with all the other cars on the road. No sooner than we did, the weatherman says, “Oh wow, the tornado just did something it never does! It just took a sharp right turn and is now heading towards Moore.”

Panic hit my heart. The road in front of me was backed up bumper to bumper moving slowly with everyone having the same idea. The cloudless blue sky above instantly turned a deadening black and the winds quickly picked up. I tried calling my husband, but his phone had been left in my car. The transformers above began popping and flashing. Their van started to seriously rock as the wind increased. I feared it would tip over. His son called and asked where we were going. I had no idea, but I knew we needed to get off the interstate.

At the next exit there was a church just off the road. Cars were exiting and hopping the curb. I followed suit, with my husband and his son doing the same. Being the athletic one, I grabbed our daughter and ran for the church, losing one of my sandals and unknowingly, my car keys . By the time I got there some men had broken the back door in with a fallen tree. They were escorting women and children through the broken glass.

Once inside, they got everyone settled in a room and did a head count as a tornado passed over. One of the last to arrive said they could see the roof of the church pulsating as they pulled up. We sat it out for over an hour before the winds calmed down enough for some men to go out and assess the damage. We had been fortunate, it hadn’t touched down or the church would have been wiped away. Only weeks earlier the first F5 that year had taken that same exact path, leaving massive destruction in its wake.

The next day, when we went to search for my lost car keys, we could see the damage all around us from the prior tornado; demolished shopping malls, movie theatres, hills of smashed cars, and only piles of debris where homes once stood. It was eerie and surreal. It had felt like we had become part of a movie set. The enormity of what had happened and what could have happened to us was all around.

My son had made it to his friends’ home. They sat it out in the hallway with a mattress over their heads and his friends’ dogs going wild. My son had taken off down the freeway, we were a short distance behind him, and the tornadoes were behind us. The fact that it took a sharp right turn just as we did was symbolic for me. We had already lived through a life of hell during our six-year stay in Oklahoma. This seemed like a clear message of preparation for what was to come. Dark times were upon our beloved country, most citizens oblivious. We were certain to be a part of it, but we were to be protected.

It was no coincidence. It was serendipity or God’s message. I knew our lives were that of warriors and we would always be out running tornadoes or whatever calamity was sent our way. It was a message, as it had been two months earlier when my family and I stayed at our place in Kissimmee, FL, just outside Orlando. We rode all the wild rides at the local theme parks with the constant warning, “Keep your arms and legs inside the ride at all times. Be prepared to come to a sudden and abrupt stop.”

Bad times for our country lay ahead and we were being shown how to survive. We were the warriors and I was a change agent. For, someone has to do something, and the revolution begins with me.

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