The Big Scary Tomato

I grew up in Northwestern Pennsylvania. Up there a “major weather event” is usually snow related. We’ve experienced the odd earthquake and heard of a tornado or flood or two. But…while weather like that can be serious, and breaks my heart when I see the damage afterwards (usually on television) I think I thought of it as “part of life” and the planet we live on does these things and we’ve been here a while, we’re survivors, we’ve adapted to fit our environment or…whatever. It just is…but it was never us. Everything was always happening to someone else. Another state, another city, another school.

Then I moved to Alabama.

Down here we’re just south of a tornado alley and where I live it isn’t unheard of to get some small ones that dance through the valley knocking things over here and there. It’s just wind.

Three years ago Alabama suffered severe tornadoes. North of us. The evening they hit my family and I were watching a movie. We paused it to get some snacks and I happened to look out the window. Everything was green and tree limbs were blowing past the window. We got dressed (shoes and coats) and then the wind died down and life went back to normal. The next day I took photos of the one local business that was damaged.

Yesterday we were told about storms coming and warned about the possibility of tornadoes Wednesday or late Tuesday. One of my worst fears is that if I’m anywhere near a tornado it will happen at night while I’m asleep or when it’s dark and I can’t see it coming. [Side note: My fear of death is that I won’t be able to see it coming.]

At 4:30 this morning (Tuesday) a thunderstorm woke us up. Matt brought Abby into our room and we snuggled. I have never seen so much lightning in my life. It was constant. Flickering, but constant…like tv’s used to do when the channel you were watching signed off for the night. (Okay, I’m old.) It was like a science fiction movie. I turned my head toward Matt and whispered, “That’s a lot of lightning.” He said, “You’re ok. I’m right here.”

Then, under the sound of the fan he runs at night I heard a high pitched whine. I picked up my head to make sure it wasn’t the fan. Then I jumped out of bed and asked “Are those sirens??” and ran to the front door, threw it open and listened. (It was Phenix City…which is miles away.) Definitely sirens. It sounded like an old war movie…or War of the Worlds with Tom Cruise and the aliens were here. Matt, who grew up with these things, confirmed it was sirens and told me to get dressed. I did that (not at all calmly — I started crying when I couldn’t find my jeans right away and wondered if I’d care if I had to leave home in my jammies while staring a tornado in the face and after I put pants on I saw I had an internet connection on my phone and posted on Facebook to let my kids know there was a storm and that I loved them…just in case) and just as we came back into the bedroom and both our cell phones went off. Thank goodness for Emergency Alerts. However, at 5 am I do NOT want to pick up my phone and read this:

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I did what any normal woman would do.  I cried harder.

(Judge me if you want. I was scared and it’s what happened. I couldn’t control it.)

Then our siren went off. (Ladonia…which I think is located in the fire department which is right around the corner from us.) Matt finished dressing and went back to the door. I dressed Abby. Then he said “Do you want to hear it? Come listen. You can hear it ripping stuff up.”

I’m thinking “uuuuuuuuuuh…NO!”

“Come listen.”

Apparently my trust in Matt is stronger than my fear and sense of self-preservation because, carrying a crying Abby on one hip, I walked to the door to listen.

“It sounds close. I think it’s going away. I’m going to drive over there and see if anyone needs help.”

I’m thinking “Don’t leave!!”

He left.

Abby and I got couch cushions and comforters and sat in a corner of the dining room. I heard Matt pull away, I took a deep breath and the siren went off again…which is when I started thinking about us dying while Matt was gone. Or vice versa. Dying seems like a worse fate when we’re not together at least.

Matt came back unscathed, said our neighborhood looks a little shaken up, but okay so it must have been further west.

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Our fence. The close up is where you can see it just pulled the fence right out of the post like it was nothing.

We have minimal wind damage. We are okay. Our house is okay. Even the lightning left us alone (I unplugged everything but the big kitchen appliances). I am more shaken up now that’s it’s over and damage reports are rolling in. I’m more upset hearing about the people who are trapped in their houses a few miles up the road from us. I’m more upset knowing that although usually it’s just “wind” this time it meant something. This time it was real. It was personal.

It was us.

Abby is more shaken up than I thought too. She keeps talking about the “big bad tomato…or is it a potato, Mommy?”

“He’s not very nice for knocking stuff down.”

“What’s his name, Mommy? You know, the bad tomato?”

And this, only my Veggie Tales loving friends will understand…I have to giggle (finally) at the thought of the South being destroyed by Bob the Tomato.

I love this kid.

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