I sat in my recliner early Monday morning and listened to the wind howling outside. The rain beat down on the roof, lightning flashed, thunder pounded. And then suddenly, it stopped. As if my heart wasn’t already pounding, the eerie silence almost made me sick. I strained and listened for the deep, prolonged roar that I knew was about to show up.
As I listened through the silence, I heard a high pitched whine that sent shivers down my spine. Immediately, I was taken back to the hallway in our little white, framed house, when I was only six years old. My mom and dad grabbed my brother and me and carried us to the only place in our house with no windows. The sound was intense and I could see my parents’ mouths moving, but their voices were drowned out by the roar. One of my parents covered my head with a turquoise pillow and we hid in the hallway beside the laundry basket. Our house shook and rattled. It sounded like a freight train was about to plow through our home. A fear I had never experienced swept over me.
And then it stopped. As quickly as it came, it disappeared. I remember the silence was strange after experiencing such intense loudness. Once the sun came up, we walked outside and saw debris scattered everywhere and tin wrapped around pine trees in the front yard. Later we drove through town and tried to comprehend what we were seeing.
The tornado of 1988 left a sobering, mile-wide trail right through the middle of Madison County. Chicken houses, the library, NFCC’s chapel, the Presbyterian church, individual homes, and farms were demolished. Lives were lost. Many people were taken to the hospital. And everyone who made it through was left with a new, overwhelming fear.
The whine grew louder and I snapped back into real time. I heard breaking noises in the distance and the whining sound intensified. I tried to form a plan, think of the best place to hide my children, hoping these weren’t the last moments of my life. That same, overwhelming fear I felt at six years old swept over me once more. I had no control, no way to manipulate the storm, and knew all I could do was pray for safety, not only for us, but for everyone in the storm’s path. Soon, the strange whine disappeared and the rain started falling again. The pressure in the air changed and my insides relaxed as I let the melody of the rain lull me back to sleep.
All of us have had those intense experiences that cause fear to rise up and hold us hostage. For some it’s a storm, for others, it could be an accident or sickness. We all have those certain triggers that cause our emotions to be on edge. When those situations arise, there is very little we can do to calm down the emotions and rationalize the fears. Let’s be mindful of others. What seems so simple in one person’s life can cause panic in another’s. Give each other time to process, tone back the sarcasm, and let’s empathize with others. A listening ear during a time of deep fear can open the door for us to speak much needed truth into another’s life. We are in this together, especially when the storm is overwhelming.