This past Wednesday, on April 27, 2011, the south was ravaged by tornadoes. As is always the case when storms are predicted, I was glued to the TV. We had heard for days how severe these storms would be – storms that could bring the possibility of “strong tornadoes.” Thankfully, they weren’t as bad as predicted where I live…. just some heavy thunderstorms. But late that afternoon and early evening, I was once again glued to the TV as I watched, listened, and learned that supercell tornadoes were heading straight towards my oldest son’s college campus in a neighboring state. I can’t even begin to tell you how scary that was or describe the anxiety I felt. I had called him earlier in the day to make sure he was “keeping an eye” on the weather. He was in a study hall in a dorm working on a group project due the following day with some other students. Exams were to start the next day. He assured me the university was sending out text warnings about the weather and that he had received 6 in the past hour. He had received them all day. Still I worried. Afterall, I’m a mother, and that’s what mothers do, isn’t it?
That day reminded me of a day in February of 2010 when there was a shooting on his college campus. It was a Friday, and he was coming home that weekend. I knew he was okay because HE was actually the one who alerted me to the fact that “something major” had happened on campus. He was packed and ready to go home and had stopped at a building across the street from the campus, when he noticed all the red and blue flashing lights across the street. He didn’t know what had happened, but knew with all the sirens and emergency personnel, that it was something big. He told me he was going to jump on the interstate and come on home, but just in case I heard about something bad that had happened on campus, he wanted me to know he was o.k. As soon as I hung up the phone, I ran to the computer and googled the university name and discovered there had been a shooting on the campus. My heart pounded. I literally felt sick. News was rolling in about it quicker than I could search. It didn’t take long to learn that it was actually a professor who had opened fire at a faculty meeting. Three professors were dead and three more were injured – two critically. I was glued to the computer trying to find out all that I could. All I kept thinking was that this couldn’t be happening. Not at this school. Not in this town. But it was.
My husband and I and our youngest son had planned to go to the high school basketball game that evening. I called my oldest son back and told him to just come straight to the game on his way home instead of going home – because that is where we would be. I told him what I had found out and explained the reasoning behind all the red and blue lights he had seen. Of course, by that time, it was all over the car radio stations so he had heard about the shootings. We still didn’t know a lot at that time and weren’t sure if any students had been involved in the shooting. My son had a very close friend who had a class in the building where the shootings occurred and he was extremely worried about her. He tried and tried to get a hold of her but she wasn’t answering her phone.
At the basketball game that night, I found it hard to concentrate on the game. I looked for my son and longed for him to walk through the doorways of that gymnasium. Finally, he arrived. I was never so glad to see him as I was on that day. I hugged him harder than I think I have ever hugged him and didn’t want to let go of him. Even though I knew he was safe from the beginning, I had just been taught a valuable lesson in how very fragile life is. We stayed up late that night and talked about the shootings. There was just so much we didn’t understand and so much we couldn’t process.
I felt those same terrifying feelings when the tornadoes were heading towards my son’s college campus. Thankfully, the campus itself didn’t sustain any damage but there was damage all around. There was unfathomable destruction, death, and injuries. The pictures are hard to look at. And again, as hard as I try, I don’t understand. I guess I never will.
In the days before the tornadoes, I had been irritable and in a bad mood. Nothing had gone right in several days. I was mad at the world and at myself. Mad, because I had strayed from my healthy eating regimen. Mad because I hadn’t exercised in over a week. Mad because I wasn’t doing so good at losing the weight I had vowed to lose. Mad because I had spent more time than I wanted on a homemade coconut cake for Easter that didn’t turn out so good. Mad because I had too much laundry to do and housecleaning to do. Then came the tornadoes and I realized how very trivial all those things were. I felt spoiled and selfish and ashamed. Yep, it’s incredible how sometimes it takes something like a supercell tornado to put things in perspective for me.
I’ve done a lot of praying since Wednesday. I’ve prayed for all of those affected by these horrific storms. I’ve asked God to give them the strength and courage they need to carry on and to be able to do what is necessary to rebuild their lives. And I thanked God that my son was kept safe. Once again, I got a glimpse of just how fragile life really is.