Wednesday had started out pretty stormy. I woke up around 6:30 and looked out of my bedroom window and watched our trampoline make like a sailboat across our front yard. It skimmed quite gracefully over the road and into the neighbor’s yard. This was the second time it had happened during a wind storm, so I decided not to sweat it. Jon had recently been switched to day shift at his job, so I figured he and Jacob could drag it back to the house later that afternoon when he arrived home. As I lay there I heard the faint sound of sirens. I got up and looked outside listening intently. Even then the wind was so strong I could hardly open the front door. I went into Jacobs room and told him that the sirens were on and we might need to be ready to get his mattress in the hallway. (Our only tornado survival plan at that point.) I talked to Jon mid morning during a lull in the windstorm. He told me that down the mountain, in Scottsboro, the sun was already shining. I looked out and did see a touch of sun and felt relieved. I told him the news was calling for more bad weather, he said “Nah, it’s over”. About an hour after we ended that phone call, the wind picked up again. I texted him “See, I told you more was coming!!!” I checked on the status of the trampoline and saw that it had been folded over like a taco in the neighbors yard. I sent another text letting Jon know the trampoline was probably toast.
When Jacob got up after sleeping 72 hours :), he went out to check the trampoline. He came back in and said it was ruined. Bars were bent every which way. I threw on my shoes and told the little boys to sit still while I went with Jacob to see what he was talking about. At that point it was bent in a couple of places but as far as I could tell it looked okay. As we were walking back, Jon drove up. I started leaping and waving at him, being silly. I went back inside with the kids and the guys carried the trampoline over with the neighbors help. Jon put it behind our truck shed and tied it to the building. He figured it would be okay in the high winds.
I cooked a quick dinner. About thirty minutes after cooking and making a mess of my kitchen, the power snapped off. Jon, Jacob, and I stood and ate our dinner on the back porch while staring out of the windows. (Ever since we moved here, during any storm, I have watched, anxiously, out that way. I just had a feeling something would come from that direction.) Levi had gone down for a nap while the trampoline situation was going on and was still asleep on our bed. Gideon was following us around and playing with his toys. The wind was really wild again, and was trying hard to tear the awning off of the back porch. So Jon grabbed his drill and took Jacob out to secure it. My mom called from California and asked if we were alright. She said the news looked pretty bad, and asked how far we were from Tuscaloosa or Birmingham. I began to get worried because the Birmingham weather seemed to be heading north towards us. I tried to down play it so she wouldn’t worry. Really, up to that point we had been lucky. I had already been through several storms, scared to death and nothing happened. She mentioned bicycle helmets for safety and I shared our “mattress plan” with her. She really stressed that maybe we should find a shelter. I assured her that I would find out where one was located. I gathered my candles, and got ready for a long, dark night.
Jon and Jacob came inside and I told them what my mom said. Jon said that I could go to a shelter but there was no way in hey diddly heck fi he was going to one. All his life he had heard of tornadoes and had yet to see a one. Jacob also said he would like to see one, too. I said that if I could see one without anyone getting hurt, just to witness the power, I would like to as well. They went to the front of the house while I continued to stare out of the back storm door. It was then I noticed the low, upside down triangle-shaped cloud that had light emitting from it. It had dark gray finger-like tendrils coming out of the side.
“Jon, here’s your tornado.” I called. No answer. Jacob came in and stood with me. We looked at the cloud with growing dread. I told Jacob that the little things coming off the side looked like tornadoes. I called for Jon again, Jacob went out. Jon came and stared with me. He said he had seen low hanging black clouds so many times, it was probably nothing. Just then, there were three definite funnels that formed. They became one and began to come directly towards us. We watched in horror as they went back up, and came down, again and again. Each time, we thought it wouldn’t take hold. Then it did. Jon said for us to get in the hallway. Jacob grabbed his mattress and wedged it in. I had grabbed Levi up from his nap, and he was so confused, tired, crying. Jacob pulled Gideon under the mattress, while he protested and tried to climb out. I took my camera to the back porch and snapped an awful picture. Jon yelled at me to get out and get in the hallway with the kids. I pulled back the mattress like it was nothing and got underneath.(Jacob said later that he had no problem flinging the matress into the hallway, but later, could barely drag it.) Jon continued to look out the back door. I heard him saying that it wasn’t moving away. He kept praying for it to move, but it didn’t. Finally he said he couldn’t look anymore, and that he was going to get sick. He came over to us and pulled a desk over, closing us in. I told him to get under with us. I linked arms with him, while Levi was on my lap. Jacob was on the other side of me and held Gideon close. Both of my big guys were trembling and breathing so hard that it became like a sauna under there almost immediately. Levi was crying. Gideon was being playful and wiggling around. Jon prayed out loud, we all prayed for safety, protection, and the lost people who might be killed along with us. Jon said he was so sorry for all his sinful ways and was shaking hard. I kept saying it was okay, no matter what, it would be okay. Jacob said “Mom” and he was so frightened. I said it would be okay. It was going to be okay, then I prayed quietly that if it was our time to please come get us and take us to heaven. Please don’t let my babies be ripped from me. All the while, all around us was a roar so terrible. Not like a train, not unlike loud machinery. Almost like giant rolling kegs, or ….man, I don’t know. I will never forget that sound. The house shook, and I waited for the roof to tear away, or the windows to explode. Then, quiet. I asked Jon if we should go check if it was gone. He got up and told me to stay put. He went into the boys room, and I thought, it wasn’t as bad as we thought. It must have dissipated right over us. There’s no way it was that bad, I kept thinking, because how were we alive? My husband came out of the room and with a face as white as a ghost said, “If you were not a believer before this, you will be one when you look outside. ” All the nasty buildings that I wished would be taken in a tornado, were gone, or smashed. The house was intact, and our vehicles were fine. We went outside to look around on weak legs, shaken to the core. The path of destruction was huge. I called my mom back and told her that we had been hit, I don’t remember any of that conversation. I kept saying “Thank You, God!” over and over.
We had just started to take it all in when a car came down the road and the driver told us another one was on the way. Frantic, we threw the kids in the car and tried to leave. So many trees had fallen over the road, and rubberneckers came out of the wood work, it made it impossible to get out. I stared at the dark, terrible sky, scanning for more funnel clouds. Jon threw the car into reverse. I asked what he was doing (panic). He took us back to the house and we got in the Suburban. It got through the mess slipping and sliding in a neighbors field. That’s when we saw the homes that had been blown apart. Our street was demolished, and we had to find another way out to the main highway. I called 911 and asked where the nearest shelter was, they gave me another number to call. When I tried that number, the phone would not get service. We asked people where the nearest shelter was and they had no idea. Oh Good Lord, I thought, no one can help us!!!! We never found a shelter and ended up staying at Jon’s dads house. After several hours of talking about the tornado, trying to get information, and updating Facebook, we all collapsed. Sleep was a welcome end to that day.