My heart is so sad for Oklahoma. The images of the complete destruction, people wandering through the streets, parents waiting and hoping to be reunited with their babies... I just cannot even begin to imagine what they're feeling right now.
Growing up in Texas, right in the middle of Tornado Alley, my entire childhood was spent in absolute fear of having to experience one. We practiced drills all through school (duck and cover in the hallway), the tornado sirens were tested at the fire station down the street from my house every Saturday morning at 10am (the sound of that siren gives me chills to this day), and there were many nights spent in the bathtub with my Mama, Daddy, little brother and our pets with a mattress pulled over us during tornado warnings. I would be lying if I said the lessened threat of tornadoes was a factor that pushed me towards Boston.
The closest that I've ever come to actually being IN a tornado was in the fifth grade. I was in Mrs. Pemberton's portable right outside of our elementary school, and the day was bright and sunny. The school secretary came in during class and went straight to Mrs. Pemberton, whispered something, and left. Mrs. P. turned to the class and calmly told everyone that we needed to go into the main building, and to please line up. Nobody had any idea what was going on, and in retrospect, I think that she handled the situation perfectly. We joined the other fourth and fifth grade classes in the main school hallway and lined up against the brick walls. Several teachers brought out games, we were allowed to read, talk with our friends... it was very calm.
After maybe an hour had passed, the signal came over the intercom for a tornado drill. The teachers told everyone to get into the duck and cover position as we had practiced, that we were okay, but that there was bad weather coming our way and we needed to be safe, just in case. I vividly remember looking out of the windows on the door and noticing that the bright, sunny weather was gone and the light outside was green. It was the most eerie thing that I have ever in my life seen, and I know that I'll never forget that. Terrible storms did indeed come through, but we were so lucky to only have strong winds, rain and hail. We had to wait until our parents came to pick us up and sign us out, and that was that.
Once we were home, my parents told me and my brother that a tornado had touched down south of our town, in Jarrell, Texas. It was an F5, 3/4 of a mile wide, and it ripped through the town. Driving through weeks afterwards, you could still see the path of the tornado.
We were so lucky not to be directly affected then, but I'll never forget how big of an impact it had on our little area of Central Texas. Everyone came together to help those who had lost everything, through donations, blood drives, manual labor help with clearing debris and then rebuilding when it came time to do so. I'm praying today that people everywhere can come together to show the same kind of support for the people and families who have lost everything.