It was a Friday night after a long work week and my husband and I were relaxing in front of the television watching the 1980s TV show Cheers on Netflix. For some reason, the show was rather quiet, so we had the sound turned up loud to be able to laugh along with Sam, Diane, Norm, and the rest of the gang “where everybody knows your name.”
Suddenly, I thought I heard something over Carla and Diane’s endless bickering.
In the sudden silence, I could make out the undeniable sound that anyone who lives in the central U.S. knows well: the wailing cry of a tornado siren.
My husband quickly turned the TV over to a news station. There’s a joke in town that when Bill Randby, one of the local weather guys, starts rolling up his sleeves, you know the weather is getting serious. Well, Bill’s sleeves were nearly up to his shoulders, and the large swath of red on the radar was practically right on top of our neighborhood.
My husband’s eyes met mine. “We need to get to the basement now!”
We quickly gathered up our dog Bazinga, a few blankets and pillows, and some precious items and books, and made it under our stairs, the most secure room in the house. Here’s the thing: I don’t know about your understairs, but ours consists of a concrete floor, a height you can’t stand up in, and a bare bulb to illuminate all of the boxes of photos, knickknacks and various other things stored under there out of sight.
We made it just in time. Within a minute of closing the door to our shelter, the bare bulb flickered and went out. We heard the wind shrieking around the corners of the house, and the creaking and groaning as our home braved the wind. Bazinga, nestled in my husband’s lap, whimpered at the unfamiliar sounds and darkness, and buried her head in his arms. My husband and I prayed as my heart pounded.
We took turns checking the radar on our cell phones, wondering how long we’d have to be hiding from the storm. About 30 minutes later, it looked like the worst of it had passed, so we cautiously crept out, wondering what we’d see.
As we made our way upstairs and out the front door, I breathed a sigh of relief that our house was still standing. In the driveway, I noted that the three large trees in our front and side yards were intact, minus a few branches here and there.
Some of our neighbors weren’t so lucky. Huge limbs had come down, and entire trees were uprooted. Leaves, branches, siding, shingles, and even pieces of the fireworks stand erected two blocks away, were everywhere. The next day, we found out that two tornadoes had struck our community of Bellevue, Nebraska, one just a mile from our home. Miraculously, no one was injured or killed in the severe weather, although several homes were destroyed and the landscape marred by the Tornado of 2017.
My husband and I spent the better part of the next day cleaning up debris in the yard. Luckily, we didn’t have any major tree damage, but while we were picking up our own property, we saw many of our neighbors pitching in to help others, lending chainsaws, pick up beds, trailers, and even just another pair of hands. A father and son drove around, asking if they could pitch in anywhere they saw people in need. It was heartening to see such generosity from strangers.
All in all, I have found ways to be thankful through all of this. We heard the sirens in time. The tornado didn’t hit my house, and the surrounding high winds didn’t damage my trees. My loved ones were all safe from the storm, and several even texted in the midst of it all to make sure John and I were safe. Though we ended up losing our power for almost 48 hours, which spoiled most of the food in our freezer and refrigerator, we are blessed with enough money to replace it. No power meant no A/C, but the weather was beautiful, so we stayed cool. We had plenty of books to read instead of watching TV.
But most of all, this storm gave us a chance to meet some more of our neighbors, and help our community in its time of need. I wish it just didn’t take a storm to show such love for our fellow man.