We were watching the weather all day long, Nathaniel kept checking to see if work was going to get called off but it never happened. I asked him to call in sick anyway, but he loaded up in the car and took off. It wasn't long before his cell phone rang with a call from his boss calling it off. I instantly felt relieved, knowing he wouldn't be on the road...or worse, on the water.
The National Weather Service announced a tornado watch. I realized my dad was on the road and headed toward us. I call him and warn him about the weather. He told me, as he was driving on the road, he has seen semi's blown over on the side of the road. He pulls over.
We were sitting in our living room around 3:50 p.m., studying the NOAA's website, when Nathaniel's dad called. He told us there was a tornado in Newcastle — a town right next to us — and wanted to know if we were covered. Nathaniel laughed, told him we would head to campus in a few minutes to take cover.
And then the siren went off.
Nathaniel hung up on his dad. I shoved my shoes on my feet, threw my purse over my shoulder and we ran out the door. We started sprinting down the street, the sirens blaring all around us, winds rushing and gushing past us and the university — our sanctuary — looming in front of us.
My legs were burning, my lungs were on fire as I gasped for air. The sky turned an eery black seconds in to our sprint. The rain started pouring. The lightening was flashing. I could feel my heart pounding and the adrenaline pumping through my veins. As my feet pounded the pavement, all I could think was "Jesus," over and over again.
My nerves were on edge. I started to see black doubts floating in my eyes, and I call out to Nathaniel, desperately hoping he'll hear me about the rush of the storm.
I'm scared. I'm terrified. I look straight ahead, keeping my focus on Nathaniel and willing my body to keep moving.
We finally reach a building. We are both soaked to the bone and my hands are shaking. I lean against a wall, gasping in air.
I slump in a small hallway, lean my forehead against the palm of my hand, and let hot tears flow down my cool, rain-drenched skin. I desperately pray. Nathaniel calls his dad to let him know what happened.
There's a calm between storms so we move to the library's basement.
We meet a friend. Skyler. He has a degree in sociology and is working on his PhD in social work. Him and Nathaniel talk a lot. He's from Los Angeles. None of us like tornadoes and agree the bowels of the library are the safest place to be. We hang out. Watch the radar on Nathaniel's phone. Nathaniel calls his mom. She's mad at him. And worried — so worried.
We finally determine it's safe to head up. A little boy in the basement warns of us tornadoes and how they will "get us" if we go up. Of course, we all laugh.
When we walk out the door everything feels surreal. Did this actually just happen? The sun is back. We walk back to our apartment. It's 6:18 p.m.
I get there at 7 p.m. I don't have to do much. Just check on what cancellations have happened. So much for calling in sick.
My dad makes it into to town. Him and Nathaniel go to dinner and then wander the campus. Scouting out good shelters and what to do for "next time." They decide student union is best because there is lots of food and people available. We come up with multiple other strategies for different scenarios.
I feel rattled. We're still in bad conditions. Meterologists say tomorrow will be worse. It makes me feel sick.
We finally get to bed. I don't sleep well. We all sleep partially clothed in case the siren goes off. I'm fully clothed, including socks, and put my shoes right next to my bed.
When I wake up and get ready for the day I can't stop replaying yesterday's trauma in my head. It's hard to stop the cycle. I say multiple prayes. Sing multiple hymns.
I wake up Saturday morning, go to lunch with Papa and all we can talk about is the storm. We drive around town looking at the path of destruction. Most things look fine but some homes are destroyed. Crazy how selective the destruction is. One house has a missing roof and the neighbor's house looks flawless. Some trees are uprooted. Others are snapped in half. Some roof shingles are scattered everywhere. A lot of people are on the sidewalk or in their lawns, taking photos, cleaning, standing, talking. We're in awe.
Nathaniel goes to work in Oklahoma City and I feel nervous that he's there.
I drop Papa off at the apratment. He was going to go to the "red and white" football game, but decided against it. He didn't like the idea of getting stuck in hail/lighting/rain with a bunch of strangers in a football stadium. I tell him to keep his eye on the weather but tell him I will, too. I'll let him know what move he needs to make.
I get to work. I work on little things like calling the energy company and finding out what else has been canceled. I also call lumber stores to see if they are fully stocked with supplies. I drive around with Kyle, our photographer, and am amazed at the long strip of street with downed poles/lights. Workers are perched on cranes trying to fix everything...it feels endless. Random debris cover the roads and sidewalk, although it's not horrible. It's not surprising this road is closed.
I spend the rest of work obsessively checking the weather. At one point the National Weather Service warns storms are progressing. I call Papa and ask him to take his entertainment with him to the student union to camp out. I'm nervous. He listens and goes.
Nathaniel makes it back safely from work. He heads to the student union to spend time with Papa. They eat dinner there.
I meet up with them for my lunch break around 7:15 p.m. Nathaniel doesn't want me to leave again because he's scared a supercell will drop on top of me. I tell him I think we're in the clear. I eat dinner, hang out, visit. Watch the news. There's a lot of people camped out there. Students. Families. Babies. Even a dog. I eventually head back to work.
I'm only there for another 45 minutes because our editor wants us to crank the paper out and get home. We do. I'm home by 10 p.m. Which would be a shock, most any other day.
Nathaniel and Papa are home by the time I get there. We are all feeling much more relaxed by now. Nathaniel has a "surprise" for me — ice cream. Papa has already finished his sugar free kind. We are feeling relaxed. Like we've lived through a storm.
Now I have to wait for Oklahoma to make it up to me...that was rough. Maybe I'll like the idea of staying here again when I see the sunshine give me a nod of promise.
The sun shining Sunday afternoon.