I had been watching the weather forecasts all week. Storm predictions scattered across the midwest did not look promising and I could almost guarantee that my dad and girlfriend, coming from up north, were going to make it into Saint Louis before we did for the Easter weekend with family. They were, in fact, scheduled to land roughly four hours before we were.
Our flight was looking good for an on time arrival until the last ten minutes before touch down. The captain came on to announce that due to storms in the area we needed to make a wide swing and approach from the west to avoid the bulk of it.
From one side of the plane, dark skies and lightening, from the other, this gorgeous pink glow.
We landed and called my dad to make sure he had arrived. He hadn't.
He was stuck in Chicago and his flight was cancelled due to severe weather.
Minutes later we were on the phone with John's dad waiting outside the terminal to be picked up for the ride back home. This is when the sirens started.
John says they call this area Tornado Alley.
I always sit in the front seat of the car, with John's dad driving. When he pulled up, I told John, "I am going to sit in the back seat, for safety reasons."
Being the planner that I am, I added "So, what is our plan if we get hit by this storm?"
Within seconds, the wind struck from one side of the car and the hail began. John calmly instructed the driver (his dad) to pull over, stop the car, get out and get into the ditch. But... it was too late.
The wind was violent. Coming from every direction. As we sat in this little metal box in the middle of the road, the sky took over. We grew quiet and knew we weren't going anywhere unless the storm took us. We were going to ride this out.
The car wouldn't move. Despite acceleration. Everything went dark, like someone turned off the lights in the sky. Debris hurtling by. A container the size of a large household appliance was flying directly at us, almost in slow motion. Everything was moving and yet time stood still.
I took off my heels, zipped up my purse, put my sweater over my head, closed my eyes and crouched down in between the seats in the back of the car and prayed. I did not see what happened next.
And then it was over. The winds calmed, the lights came back on and the car started to inch forward. In front of us, cars that were not there before, were backing up down the road. The road was full of things that should not be there.
We called home. The news said that there was a tornado that touched down at the airport.
I don't know what spared us, but I do know that we were incredibly lucky. I never (ever) want to experience a storm like this again. I pray for all of those that have been impacted by the violent weather over the past couple of weeks. It gives new meaning to life and reminds us of how fragile it all is.
Incredibly, and perhaps ironically, I managed to be out of town on the day the tornado came through downtown Raleigh, only to fly directly into another one the following weekend. I think maybe someone really wanted to teach us a lesson.
Life is truly a gift.
I hope everyone had a safe, healthy and happy Easter weekend with family and friends. We're back home now in very sunny and warm North Carolina and looking forward to a much less tumultuous week ahead.