About 12 big nasty tornados blew through Dallas on Tuesday along with some insanely heavy rainstorms and up to softball size hail. I could think of better weather for my day off. I could think of better weather for absolutely any day. Things got a bit tense when my wife called me as I rushed home from some errands just ahead of the storm under a spooky greenish grey sky. They were moving everyone in her office building into safe rooms and rumors of a nearby touchdown were spinning around like the storms themself. Amid all the very scary T.V. news reports, constant neighborhood tornado sirens and interruptions on the radio with ‘real’ emergency broadcast system announcements declaring imminent danger, I kept having one thought over and over. I’m just not sure if it’s a coincidence that the United States’ tornado alley and Bible belt overlap so much.
Hunkering down through a storm huddled in a bathtub with a mattress over your head as the brick and mortar of your home and life turns to swirling dust around you, might make the staunchest of atheists take up prayer just in case they want to hedge their bets. Of course it could also be taken as a sign that the opposite is true. The big guy might be sending a message that he’s mighty pissed at a lot of folks in this part of the country for boldly using his name as their guise to forward their own more human agendas. Either way, I was one of the lucky ones; my family, pets and house all made it through unscathed.
Worrying about these things makes for some interesting mind games. It’s not at all like a facing death life before your eyes thing. So once you get past the fear of harm to your loved ones, it’s more of reassess what is important and give pause to priorities. Like I kept thinking I should not be as attached to my stuff as I am. The idea of it all disappearing in an instant and having to start over might seem appealing on spring cleaning days or certainly when I am boxing my possessions up for a big move, but in general I’m very attached to my things. Too attached actually.
For my first 40 years I lived somewhat compactly and even though stuff like my books and records were quite heavy in weight, I could cram everything I owned into the smallest bumper hitched U-Haul trailer. Now that I am married and far more settled I think it would take a tractor trailer (the size of those ones flying 50 feet through the air on that now famous video from Tuesday’s tornados) to move all my crap. I’m sure if my world blew away, I could start over but I really have no desire to do that.
I try to create an illusion of safety in my world with a house security system, numerous fire alarms, kick proof door locks and such. I want to protect my little sliver of the world or at least live under the illusion that I am doing everything I can to shield it from outside harm. The thing is, aside from my pets, I really do not have anything that valuable in the house. I’m not sure why I feel the need to build the mote and wall around the castle. Paranoia and fear I guess. That’s why I can’t watch shows like Cops because they make you think that bad crap is the norm.
I glanced at the weather report Tuesday morning and it said high of 78 with a chance of heavy showers. I left the house mid-morning in a short sleeve shirt with my convertible top down. It reminded me of the summer years ago when I visited my friend Madeline in her condo on Miami’s South Beach. On the way back from a morning at the beach we met up with her Dad for lunch and he said the meteorologists were predicting a hurricane. We kind of laughed it off because things were so beautiful and perfect that day, until things got scary. When it seemed a hit was imminent we headed to the local market to stock up on supplies where people were in a crazy panic running down the aisles grabbing things like a rioter trying to loot a store and get out before getting caught. Shelves of basics like bottled water, beer and canned foods were barren and bare.
Eventually there was a mandatory evacuation. We taped up, boarded up and locked up the condo and headed in-land where I found myself hunkering down at the parent of a friend’s condo for one of the scariest nights in my life as Hurricane Andrew roared through destroying half the city. My strongest memories of that night was the constant high pitched whistle the 120 mile per hour winds made as they blew through the door locks. It took a while to figure out what it was but I was afraid to spend too much time near the doors because you could feel them physically bending and bowing from the wind.
I promised myself that night that if I get notice a hurricane is coming again, I am packing up and leaving town. I never want to do that again. Tornados are different, you get minutes notice instead of days and they pass through just as quick. If your life is going to be destroyed by a tornado you will know in seconds. Hurricanes last hours and hours. Just as destructive but it is a slow and painful torture as opposed to a quick death. Personally I can do without either.
I was lucky and I made it through Andrew a lot better than some other people. I have friends whose lives were totally uprooted by that storm. They lost their homes, their workplaces, their world but now 20 years later it is just the fodder of stories. They picked up, packed up and started over because that is what you do. I am very lucky to have skirted that kind of tragedy in my life back than and this past week. Now I just have to decide if living in Bible belt is protecting me or putting a target on my back.