Tornado sirens screeched warnings at 5:15 this morning, waking me up after a fitful night of thunderstorms. Lightening flashed through pale colored window sheers while crashes of thunder clapped loud enough to raise a roof. Yes, spring is here in St. Louis.
The blaring sounds of sirens are nothing I take for granted. Grabbing the dog from under my bed, I sprinted down beige carpeted stairs to a basement of safety. There, I watched our local weather channel to see the pattern of storms while listening to a reporter tell me what was coming next.
On New Year’s Eve in 2010, my son was working at a tuxedo shop where he measured professional baseball players and other important men in colors of black, white and navy. It was a temporary job that he took between graduation and starting his career with the national weather service. He worked alone that day, except for his trusty service dog named, Nimbus. No customers were in the shop that afternoon. A storm was on its way.
Suddenly, God turned out the lights while sheets of rain began to fall, pouring buckets of water down a single spout. Winds whipped through trees like cans of aerosol cream, freshly pressed. Thunder played a new set of drums while electric lightning flashed zig-zag patterns against an inkwell sky.
Suddenly sirens screeched warning signs of a tornado. “Get to the basement,” they said. Flying down to our lower level, my husband and I watched in ‘real time’ the pattern of the storm. Our son had taught us enough to know what a tornado “cell” looked like. There, we followed its path as it meandered closer and closer towards a little tuxedo shop on the other side of town.
With a breathy voice my husband used his cell phone to call our son. “Jay, the tornado is coming right for you. Get your food, your diabetes supplies and Nimbus. Get under the desk, NOW. Do not wait.” Our son did not ask questions. He saw the blackened sky. He trusted us.
Within minutes a historic, EF4 tornado with winds of over 166 miles per hour hit several different locations in St. Louis, including the area surrounding my son’s place of employment. Afterwards, total devastation was left all around him. Climbing through the rubble, he called, telling me it was over. “It looks like a war zone, Mom. I can’t even drive my car.” His voice cracked with emotion. While speaking, he looked directly across the street. The violence of the tornado had flattened everything within its path. With a roll of the dice, God had spared my son by placing him on the opposite side of the street that day.