Tornados Inc.

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Posted by Alli from ? ( on Friday, March 01, 2002 at 4:01PM :

In Reply to: Murderers Whee posted by pancho from ? ( on Friday, March 01, 2002 at 2:52AM :

so, i was thinking last night about why on earth i feel so much pain at the mere mention of bombs... & then it struck me.

when i was a little farter in 5th grade, a tornado ripped through my hometown, killing 19 people, a mere block away from where i was (after school care; it was somewhere around 5:30 or 6 at night). sure, i knew what a tornado was, had willingly endured those stupid drills at school (all the kids had to line up along the walls &, facing the walls, kneel down so that your face was pressed to the top of your knees, legs folded tightly together, arms shielding the back of your head & neck, & pray - it was a Lutheran school). & i remember that evening incredibly well - at first, no one knew what was happening, all the power was out & the phone lines weren't working either. it was pitch black outside, the most loud & beautiful thunder & lightning streaked across the sky, & the rain was flooding the ground outside. thinking it was merely a thunderstorm, i stood by the window & watched it like a movie & thought to myself what a bunch of pansies the girls in the room were for screaming & crying at the thunder & lightning like that. Mom came to pick my sister & me up, & a mere 5 minutes after the tornado had hit we drove through the area - the power was still out but lightning occasionally lit up the sky enough for us to see cars overturned in ditches full to the brim with water & debris, a line of broken trees that looked like they'd been snapped like twigs, & policemen & ambulances starting to arrive at the scene ... by then, everyone knew via battery powered & car radio that a tornado had in fact touched down & run right along one of the busiest streets in my town.

well, it took a while for the fact to settle in... i knew a few of the people who'd died & many who'd escaped in the nick of time, most of them parents on their way to/from after school events for their kids. a few pets were recovered from tree tops, but most of them survived through some sort of animal instinct. one of my friends' mothers had actually seen the tornado as she was driving, figured out which direction it was aiming, & driven her car out of its way. i remember how one of the boys whose mother had died in the tornado had been the brunt of a lot of cruel middle-school jokes... no one made fun of him after the tornado. & strangely, after that tornado, at the 1st sign of a thunderstorm during "tornado season," i would panic. i'd hide in the nearest dark corner i could find, try to assess my chances of survival, look for the closest battery powered radio & flashlight... it became an art to me - figuring out every tornado safe zone i could find: if i was in a car - look for the nearest ditch; if i was in a house - figure out if it had a safe basement, low-enough in the ground to give adequate protection; if i was in a public place - check for strong, cement walls & window- & door-less places along those walls; if i was at home - estimate the time it would take for me to alert my parents & sister & find the 2 indoor dogs so i could carry one under each arm with me to the basement. what a tornado nerd! the 1st sign of a prematurely black sky & hail, & i was ready, escape plan already figured out! what a genius! nothing can kill me now!

then the 2nd tornado happened a couple of years later (8th grade), this time while i was at school (the same Lutheran school) & this time it managed to fly right over my school. during the storm, i was reduced to tears - all that preparation didn't really help me. the hand of God was about to mercilessly exterminate my friends & me with a giant wind funnel, hail, & a black sky at 3 o'clock in the afternoon. we all filed out of our classrooms single file, painfully, morbidly, respectfully quiet so we could hear everything the teachers, principles, & secretaries were saying in hushed voices to each other. while i was crouching there sobbing with my head one of many painfully smushed against a concrete walled hallway, i thought about my parents, my pets, my other friends who weren't there with me, what i hadn't done yet in life that i really wanted to do, what my funeral would potentially be like, would anyone come to my funeral, would anyone i knew be alive to make it to my funeral, why me, do i deserve this, ohmygod i forgot to tell everyone this morning at breakfast how much i love them, life sucks man, come on & kill me already darnit - this is torture!

so, come to think of it, this could be why i feel so sympathetic to children in a bombing situation. of course, bombs are very different from tornados, but the fear of death is there along with the acute knowledge that your life as you know it may never be the same if you're lucky enough to live, that is. this fear doesn't go away so easily. & preparation doesn't help so much. i mean, what's a measly wall compared to a huge, completely unpredictable wind cloud that could very easily use that concrete wall to smush your fragile little skull? or pick you up & bang you around a bit so you feel all that pain right before you die? & what's a measly wall going to do to protect you from a huge smart bomb that's capable of ripping & incinerating everything it encounters to shreds & ashes?

kids have a natural tendency to explore, to investigate everything shamelessly, even the gross things - hell it's even kind of fun running across something really weird & scary when you're ready for & excited about it. but when it comes to something that seriously threatens your life, as a kid, you have a hard time negotiating it all. you think: ok, there are some things i can do to sort of protect myself, but there are a host of things that can go wrong, & what it all boils down to is luck. why do some people die during a war or natural disaster & others escape just fine? or maybe it's God, not luck? if you die young, does that mean you did what you're supposed to do as part of God's "plan?" or does that mean you were too good for this earth & you're being called home to heaven like the pastors & your parents said? what if i did something stupid & mean yesterday, does that count against me? & what if there is no God? what then? will anyone remember me?

the point of this story is not to glorify a past experience of mine, or say what a brave young thing i was. the point is this: that children are so vulnerable, even though they like to think they're tough. some perverse adults go so far as to think that kids, fronting that they are perfectly aware of themselves - which kids are to some extent - know every implication behind their actions & actions being done to themselves. but they don't - they can't - they haven't been there yet, & to push them there when they're not ready, regardless of how itís done or who or what does it, is an incredibly violent act. & to repeatedly subject them to these things... there will NEVER be a dark, windy, hailing thunderstorm which i will be able to face without the fear & anxiety that i may die the next moment. just think of the implications for children subject to surprise air-raids on a perfectly sunny day or on a seemingly peaceful & clear starry night...

-- Alli
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