Right Up Tornado Alley

November 3, 2009
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It’s always warm in southern Alabama and that’s one of the reasons I love it there. The temperature hardly dropped below forty degrees. The sun would shine most of the time. The weather has a huge effect on people. I’m bright and energetic when the sun’s shining, and I always feel warm and happy. The opposite reaction happens when the opposite weather comes our way. It leaves me drowsy and in a bad mood. Today…today was one of those days.

As I stuffed the toast down my throat, I grabbed my books, shoved them in my bag, and followed my mom out the door with my little sister tagging along behind me. My mom was a teacher aid at the elementary school I went to, so I automatically got a free ride to school every day. The morning was hot and moist, smelling of a new thunderstorm rolling in. Nothing too abnormal. Around the house, everything was quiet.

After P.E, we heard an announcement over the PA in our principal’s voice,

“Attention teachers and students. School will be dismissed at one o’clock instead of three due to predicted severe storms today.” Generally, I get excited when we get time off of school. But today, school was cancelled because of a severe thunderstorm. That had never happened before. I was starting to worry. Brian walked up to me and said excitedly,

“Isn’t it a miracle that we get 2 hours off of school?”

“Yeah, it’s amazing,” I tried to sound a little enthusiastic, but it just didn’t come out right. It was more sarcasm than anything else. My heart raced when I heard the school signal to go out into the hallways for the severe weather. We were to go out into the hallways right when we heard the repeated short bells in an orderly single file. We had a couple of these drills during the year, so we were prepared not to scream and run around when these things actually happened, which was not that uncommon where I lived.

Head propped in my hands and elbows on my knees, I started to count the cracks in the wall. One by one a child would get called on one of the teacher’s radios, and I would see them walk at a fast pace down the crowded hallway. Most of my friends had already gone home. It was terribly uncomfortable on the hard floor. I only had one friend to talk to, but she was as bored as I was. We had been in this Tornado Warning for 3 hours. I wanted nothing more than to get into my own bed and sleep.

The lights started to flicker and then they went completely out. All the little 3rd graders screamed at the sudden darkness. Mr. Williams(our principal) was running through the hall yelling “EVERYONE I REPEAT EVERYONE!” his voice getting louder as he got farther toward us, “INCLUDING ALL THE TEACHERS, GET AGAINST THE WALL, YOUR BACKS STRAIGHT, HANDS OVER YOUR HEAD, PEOPLE, OVER YOUR HEAD!” A loud continuous bell went off and papers were flying in the strong breeze that suddenly filled the hall.

I shut my eyes, trying to escape all that I could, but it only got worse. The screaming and crying from the third and fourth grades, I drained them out. All I could hear was coming from outside, a sound almost identical to people screaming on a freight train. I tried to comprehend what was happening, but my brain could not process it right now. I was too scared to think of anything but to keep living. I slipped my arms around my friend and told her to hold on, we would get through this. We had to get through this. Something was pulling me to the left, but I felt no one there.

It got quiet, and all the papers were on the ground. I heard whimpering and crying from the other end of the hallway, and I was trying hard not to cry myself. The teachers were getting up and comforting the little ones, “It’s alright now, it’s over,” they would say. After a minute of calming myself and my friend beside me, my mom walked slowly down the hallway, as if she were looking for someone.

“MOM” I yelled. She immediately turned around and came my way.

“Oh my God, I thought I would never see you again!” She suddenly burst out into tears, and I no longer could hold mine back.

“Lets go,” Mom said after Mr. Williams came up and said that we were free to leave the building. I was sad to leave my friend, although it was a relief to stand up and walk to the lobby with my sister and my mom.

Mom opened the front door, and everything was gone. The houses across the street were completely turned into rubble. The high school to our right, only parts of it were standing. Can you imagine all the High school kids who were hurt? The cars in the parking lot were turned over, and the windows blown out. “Well,” Sara said, “We always thought it was time for a new car.” We walked over to our car, which was thankfully not turned over or smashed to a flat piece of metal… or in a tree. But the windows were blown out, and it had a “NO PARKING” sing flung into the ride side of the car. We gathered all the things that weren’t ruined my the disaster. There were few things we could gather.

I turned around and looked up and down the walls of our elementary school, examining it with caution. It appeared to be standing, but I could only see the front.

When my dad came and picked us up, we went home. Our house, miraculously, was untouched by the tornado. It did not even loose power. We turned on the news, and found out that 8 students had died in the tornado at the high school. More than 300 homes were destroyed, and there were thousands of injuries. Pictures of houses flashed across the screen, those that were not recognizable from our city. The same thing happened to other cities.

Later, we would slowly start to rebuild the city, and maybe sometime in the future, all would be normal again. But not today. Today, everything changed.

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