Surviving the Storm

I am now a college student. Very surreal.  Anyway, I am taking English comp this semester, which consists of an 8000 minimum of written words. Here is my first official college written essay.

Surviving the Storm

I was pregnant with my first child during the summer that I was thirty years old.  Midwest summers are not kind to a pregnant woman close to term.  The heat and humidity levels were unbearable.  I spent the summer seeking any means that I could to stay cool.

My sister, Beth and her husband, Jeff had just bought a houseboat. They were going to spend the 4th of July weekend on their boat and invited us to go to the lake with them.  I jumped at the chance, imaging myself floating weightless in the cool water of Truman Lake.

My husband, Keith and I loaded up our travel trailer and headed to the Sterett Creek Marina and Campground.  The campground was located on the gentle slope of a hill rising up from the lake and the boat docks below.  The sound of the waves lapping on the bank made me feel cooler already.  We spent the beginning of the weekend basking in the warm sun and floating in the lake.  The nights were filled with cicadas singing and each other’s company. It was turning out to be the perfect weekend.

On the morning of the 5th, just before dawn, I woke to the sound of rain drops patting on the roof of the camper.  I love rain storms.  I lay there; comfortable in the bed listening to the rain and watched the light slowly build outside the window.  The wind gently rocked the camper like a cradle.

It wasn’t long before the wind picked up and I had the thought that we needed to roll up the awning on the outside of the camper so it would not get damaged.  Keith was already one step ahead of me.  He slipped on his shoes and headed outside while I stayed snuggled in the bed.

Within a moment, I realized that this was no ordinary storm.  The wind had escalated even further and was suddenly a massive force shoving against the broad side of the camper.  I heard Keith yell for my help from outside as he struggled with the awning.  I rushed out.  He was unable to get the awning rolled up because the wind was lifting it like a sail.

“Hold it down!” he screamed over the roaring wind.

I grabbed one side and hung all my weight on it.  The next several gusts of wind lifted me off the ground with the awning rising up above me like a balloon.  The entire camper would flip over if we did not get it rolled up soon.  Just then, the vinyl finally gave way under the stress and ripped more than half way across.  Keith motioned for me to get out of the way.  He grabbed the awning and tore it the rest of the way off the camper.

We rushed back into our tiny refuge and huddled together to ride out the storm.  Everyone that lives in the Midwest knows to seek shelter underground if you can during a tornado but there was nowhere else for us to go and no time to do it.  We were in a camper on top of a hill!

The storm ended as quickly as it began.  I was in shock as we emerged from the camper.  I looked around and the campground was unrecognizable.  Was this really the same place that surrounded us when we went to bed last night?  I felt like Dorothy stepping out of her house into the Land of Oz.  Only this was not a happy scene before us.  It looked like a war zone.  The huge beautiful 100 year old oak trees were down everywhere.  Some were actually twisted off half way up their massive trunks.  Limbs and foliage covered everything in a sea of green, crushing vehicles and campers in their wake.

I felt numb. There seemed to be no sound and everything was moving in slow motion.  My ears were ringing like I had been to a rock concert.  I turned around and saw that miraculously our camper was intact.  A tree had fallen right in front of it but the tips of the very top branches fell just short of hitting us.  If the tree had been ten feet taller, it would have crushed the camper beneath it.

“Are you OK?” Keith asked with concern.

I blinked at him as if he was speaking a foreign language.  Suddenly time and sound caught back up to me and everything seemed to spring to life around me with the emerging sunshine. I was aware of the approaching sirens and the sound of a chainsaw someone fired up to start clearing the road.  I nodded at him.  Yes, I was fine.  Keith was fine.  But where were Beth and Jeff?

I started down the path to find them.  I could see that the huge metal docks were now in twisted piles of wreckage.  Boats were scattered across the cove, some partially submerged.  I quickened my pace as panic began to set in.  I was so terrified at what I would find ahead of me. Suddenly I saw Beth coming towards me among the refugees on the path.  We started crying and rushed to hug each other fiercely around my enormous belly.

It was a long, slow trip home.  It took us nearly all day although it was only 45 miles.   We crossed the tornado’s path several times and had to stop as the road was still being cleared of trees, mud and debris.  The tornado had bulldozed a clear path through the timber for miles.

It seemed like a dream as we watched the 5 o’clock news that night.  Jeff was interviewed.  It was so surreal to see him on television.  Only one man had lost his life.  Rescue divers found his body wedged under the dock the next day.

I am reminded how precious life is every time I look at my beautiful daughter who survived a tornado before she even took her first breath.

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