My mother was terrified of tornadoes; my sisters and I spent many stormy summer nights huddled with her under the laundry table in our basement as my father, refusing to be stirred, slept soundly in his bed.
She told a story of seeing the devastation left in a tornado’s wake as a young child on the South Dakota prairie. A big farmhouse down the road from theirs had one wall completely missing, as if it had been neatly sliced off with a butcher’s knife, furniture still in place on the opposite side of the open rooms, curtains still hanging in the windows.
I never thought to ask about the family who lived there, but now I can envision them, probably hunkered down in the root cellar hoping that the old wooden door would hold, hearing the roar like a freight rain above them and praying for their lives.
Imagine the terror of a little girl huddled there in the darkness with her brother and her parents in the deafening noise of the wind, things being torn apart, and debris being hurled against the cellar door.
An eerie silence follows, and they slowly climb the stairs and push aside the door to find an alien landscape – trees uprooted, barn flattened, smashed truck that had apparently been picked up and dropped beside what remained of the smokehouse, and their big two-story farmhouse sitting there with one side wide open like a dollhouse; nothing would ever be the same.