“Should we get the kids?” she wisely and calmly asked.
After another moment of disbelief, I screamed “Yes!”
We sprinted to the kids’ rooms, snatched them out of their beds and dove into a closet in the bathroom. In the chaos, we had forgotten the dog. I opened the door to go back and get him and when I did my ears began to pop as the house pressurized from the force of the tornado. Looking back at this moment, I realize that was the first time in my life that I felt completely and utterly helpless. I knew we were in a dire situation and I also knew there was nothing we could do about it.
Earlier that day, as the local news media warned our community of the impending storms, my wife took the time to walk around our house and our property praying protection over our family and our belongings. I honestly thought she was being a little dramatic as I had lived in places where tornadoes dwell and it is rare that you would see one, much less that it would actually hit your home. However, in hindsight, I firmly believe that her decision and faithfulness had a direct impact on how this story ended for our family.
After a few minutes in the closet listening to the screaming wind and the crashing trees outside, the storm began to subside. I emerged from our shelter to assess the damages, fully prepared for the worst. As I walked around the inside and outside of our home, I quickly realized the damage was minimal. I started questioning whether it was actually a tornado I saw. It wasn’t until the next morning that we fully realized the impact of what happened and the devastation that surrounded us.
The next morning, as we walked the neighborhood we realized that we had taken a direct hit from one of nature’s most powerful forces. Six wooded acres to our west were leveled with nearly every home sustaining serious to total damage; an entire forest to the east of our property was laid flat with a subdivision on the other side being leveled. In between these areas of devastation sat our home with our family huddled in a closet. Our house was literally sitting in the middle of the path of this monster and remained nearly untouched ... a miracle by any standard. We were spared, not that we deserved it, but simply by the grace of God.
Since the storm, we witnessed a woman folding clothes in her baby’s nursery from the street because the home had no roof and walls. We witnessed a best friend’s home and property destroyed beyond recognition. We witnessed the aftermath of our car picked up and moved like it was a Hot Wheels toy, telephone poles tossed like toothpicks, trees snapped like twigs and buildings crushed like they were built out of LEGOs.
However, since that time we have also witnessed people serving. We witnessed Lee University students volunteering for 14-hour days the weekend before Final Exam week. We have witnessed organizations that are natural competitors sharing offices, sharing resources and sharing information. We have witnessed grassroots, volunteer operations through schools and churches who were putting people in the disaster-stricken areas, reaching out to serve their neighbors.
I have witnessed that inspirational spirit that makes our community so legendary. Despite my wish to have our community free from this devastation, I am grateful to have witnessed it all.
(Editor’s Note: To learn more about Matt’s family adventures, or misadventures, visit www.mattryerson.blogspot.com. Matt’s column appears every Wednesday in the Cleveland Daily Banner.)