home last year, May 20.
It was hard to focus on anything but the sky that day.
It was pitch black even before noon, with only lightning flashes to interrupt the day-become-night. Tornado sirens alarmed at work, and the shelter was soon
packed. The room was alive with chatter until
the projector started up and Oklahoma City’s News 4 came on the screen. Intermittently
between power outages, the screen showed an F-5 tornado ripping everything
apart. Debris flew, and if it weren’t for the weatherman’s updates, we wouldn’t
have recognized its location. The screen zoomed in on 149th and
Pennsylvania Avenue — one hill away from my horse, Indie, a half-mile away from our
apartment. The mile-wide storm had already taken out schools, houses and stables
right before our eyes. Amid the crying and praying, the room became eerily quiet
as some of our friends lost homes, family, everything.
The photo above is of the balcony of our apartment. In the chair lies a piece of concrete that just missed the window. The complex avoided a direct hit by just a few hundred feet. Some of the buildings took on major damage, and our neighboring units had boards forced through the
walls. Yet at ours, my wind chimes still dangled, making music in the wind. The inside was surreal; nothing had moved and everything was as we left it that morning. But across the street, the strip mall was gone, down to its bare beams.
wandering in the rain without a home to go to. Through all tragedy and confusion,
I’ll never forget the smell of burgers on a grill. Just around the block were
several flatbed trailers loaded down with grills and ice chests. Dozens of
people handed out food, drinks, clean clothes, hugs and prayers. It was a community
togetherness I’ll never forget.
later, a move 12 hours north to Milwaukee, and the same wind chimes sing on my
porch. After surviving 200-mph winds and a mile-wide tornado, I can’t help but look at them with
adoration. One year ago today, I drove past scenes that still haunt me. I took in hugs from mere strangers. I buried my face in my horse’s mane, so thankful she survived. One year ago today, I learned a new appreciation for life.