My oldest brother and I had been had at home that afternoon sunbathing on our upper deck. It was scorching hot, well over 30 degrees celsius and the air was beyond stifling. We were sweating like crazy and stupid to have been sitting out there for as long as we did, but we were young and tans were in. After we could no longer stand it-literally, we brought in our frayed beach towels, our revered silver boombox and the other many sundries that we had accumulated; it was close to two o’clock. Once we had each showered off and finally cooled down, we took to watching TV in our family room. The phone rang and, initially, we thought not much of it. (As a kid, the phone ringing was usually a good thing, often a friendly voice on the other end extending an invite or simply wanting to talk about all things important: boys/girls, school, the latest trends, playdates, etc.). This particular call was from my dad. It was very odd for him to be calling in the middle of the day. We immediately had the sense that this call was different. It was! My dad’s voice was clear and steady, “There is a tornado coming, you need to get down to the basement. Both of you.” Our response was casual, and one of obvious disbelief, “A tornado? In our parts? That can’t be.” And so, ignoring our father’s advice (typical teens) we continued about our business until…
The sky instantly changed from its bright, sunny appearance to downright BLACK leaving us to sit in the dark. The mood was as if it had been craftily written into the script, straight out of one of the many popular 1980’s horror films at the time. Sure enough, the wind whipped in out of nowhere and the rain came in sideways sheets pelting so loudly against our house that you’d swear it was made of tin. The large tree in the middle of our front yard was nearly bent in half. How the trunk did not end up breaking, we will never know?! Hail, some the size of small fruits, covered our lawn and garden. Before we knew it, the lush, Vivid, green grass turned to winter white. A movie scene it was, alright, with me following behind my brother’s every footstep, as he scurried from room to room wondering what in the name of Pete was going on. ‘It couldn’t be‘. I mentioned that we should probably go downstairs like Dad had said, but he had no intention of missing out on all of the action and I wasn’t about to go down to the basement by myself. Like it or not, he was stuck with me and I was stuck with him–the two of us each wide-eyed and speechless. There was nothing to do, but watch and pace and pace and watch.
Luckily, when the whole ordeal was done (maybe a half hour or so later-an eternity in some ways), our house was still standing as were we. Thankfully. When we figured it was safe, we ventured outside to see what damage had all been done and we tried to make sense of what had just happened. It was DEFINITELY a tornado, even though none had ever been recorded in our area. We do not reside anywhere near what would be considered a typical twister alley. The images that lie before us were undoubtedly surreal-debris was strewn everywhere, our neighbour’s tent trailer was in a tree, fences were down, branches and shingles lie about, once-flat surfaces were left with hail-sized divots and so on. Amazingly, no one in our cul-de-sac was hurt, though many lives and homes were claimed that day, some less than a mile away from where we lived. Needless to say, the devastation echoed for weeks, months and years to come and each time the sky turned fierce in colour, many of us feared the worst again. It was a day to remember for sure! A day not to be repeated, we hoped/hope. And, a valuable lesson learned in heeding our father’s words, though we later learned, that he, too, did not believe that the tornado warnings were in fact real.