In Memory of Arkansas Tornado Victims

Arkansas Tornado Memorial

I’ve written before about the tornados that struck Clarksville, Arkansas three years ago (here).

Sunday evening I had my personal weather central set up at the door where I could at one moment watch the television, review the weather radar and alerts on my computer, listen to the NOAA weather radio, and use my phone for alerts and touching base with others by text. It got sketchy. The sky took on the same unusual hue it did prior to the tornados we’d last experienced.

All day long my family had been terribly on edge. My partner and my children were inexplicably tense and emotional. We’d been warned that conditions were optimal for severe weather, in particular tornados, that evening. So I chalked this edginess up to changes in barometric pressure. That evening, as I watched the cells of yellow and red head up out of Oklahoma toward us, I grew tenser.

We don’t have a storm cellar, and I prepped our bathtub with blankets and readied a mattress to pull over the top of us. I imagined us there. I considered the image of Kristin and I covering the children and pulling the mattress over us as the wind I’d heard two years ago surrounded us again. I wondered what it would be like for that wind to rip our home away from us and consume our pitiful mattress and bathtub shelter. I imagined dying, hopefully …desperately hoping our children would survive.

Right then, about an hour away there was another man doing just that.

My friend’s nephew. He used his body to shield his daughters from a half-mile-wide EF4 (here).

From where I stood, I watched online as the tornado tossed vehicles around I-40 then blast its way through Mayflower and Vilonia. One of my students works nearby and his family is all from around that area. I texted him. Waited impatiently. Eventually discovering that he had missed being in that I-40 disaster by minutes and his family was fine. We found out other students we knew were huddled in Little Rock, waiting the storm to pass. Eventually, all found their way home to the University of the Ozarks.

We all lived. Someone else died.

And it’s times like this that reason is no respecter of persons. It wasn’t because God loved me more or him less, I guarantee. Good people die all over the world, randomly, and for no reason. And I hate that.

In the same tornado an 8- and 7-year-old siblings were killed. In another area a 17-year-old. I can imagine the pain of losing my child. I don’t want to, but I’ve been there before. I don’t want others to live such pain. I can’t imagine the pain of losing my father, his body sheltering me from the terrible violence behind him. But that’s what good parents do. They put their children’s welfare above every other thing.

I never knew him. I only found out he died, how he died when I saw his picture and story online.

But he’s my hero now that I know. …and I’m really sorry he died.

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