Surviving Triple Twisters in Canton


04-29-17

“First Monday” Trade Days in Canton, Texas.

We knew today would be the last time we would get to attend “First Monday” Trade Days in Canton, Texas. But little did we expect it to be, possibly, the last day of our lives when triple tornadoes flattened Canton, that afternoon.

Since we will soon leave the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex, Jeff and I got up early, this morning for the hour-and-a-half drive East. Although the Weather Channel had predicted thunderstorms, we didn’t expect them to be a problem, since we planned to spend most of our time inside the  Marketplace, on the hill.

After spending two to three hours in the building where we sampled  salsa, coffee, and wine coolers, visited with vendors, we bought our second Bionic Bands from our friend, Jackie Blalock  of Cross-b Sales who sold us our first bands, three years ago. Since we bought the bands, they have helped us “vintage youngsters” maintain our balance when, otherwise, the slightest little trip-up might have sent us straight to the floor. Other than  the time I tripped over the dog and went flying through the air on New Year’s Eve 2016, the bands have been well worth the expense.

Now with two of these bands, one on each arm, we were feeling pretty indestructible. We ventured out to the grounds where we found a turquoise RV mat. Wearing our bands, and dreaming of our plans, we felt invincible. That is, until rain pelted the roof overhead , forcing us to head back to the building where we were greeted by officials bearing sobering news: A tornado was coming.

“Y’all go the bathrooms, now!” they urged. .

“Go ‘head on, babe,” Jeff said. “I’ll stay with Jackie in his booth. We’ll be okay.”

Heeding  my husband’s advice, I made a beeline for the restroom where I crowded in with a gaggle of fifty-some women and girls all talking at once. At first, we were simply waiting out a storm, as instructed by a calm but vigilant woman in charge. In her hand, a cell phone showing  a weather map showing an area colored bright red.

“Everyone get away from the mirrors. Go back to the stalls, instead.”

Now, up to that moment, I had never been in a tornado, so I never knew how I would react until it actually happened. I was amazed at how calm I was able to stay, even though my heart was doing somersaults and backflips. Fixing my eyes on the bathroom tiles, I bowed my head and sent up a prayer before texting my husband and posting to friends about the event on Facebook.

You will get through this, Kim, I whispered to my frightened self. Hang tough, ol’ girl.

“The tornado has turned north!” someone suddenly announced.

I looked up to see women leaving the restroom.

So it’s over, already. This is good news, right?

“Thank you, Lord,” I breathed, as my pulse raced.

Only an hour earlier,  the same women had been strangers to each other hugs before we wandered out to be reunited with our husbands, only to be shooed back into the restroom long  when someone yelled, “Get back in there! Another tornado’s on the way!”

So back into the bathroom we bustled. Teenaged girls, blowing off steam, engaged in horseplay until they were sobered by our solemn faces. One woman quietly breastfed her baby from a chair in the corner. A white-haired woman riding a mobility cart, brought her little dog inside with her. Still, another woman held a tiny, recently-rescued kitten to her chest. Some standing on toilet seats and peered over the top of the stalls. Others who were limber enough sat on the floor. Children wept into their mothers’ laps. When the nursing  mother her got up from the chair, I plopped down in it to relieve my back that suddenly ached from trudging all over the grounds.

In an instant, the room went dark. Collective breaths caught as we listened for the characteristic “freight train” roar signalingtwister would soon bear down upon us.

“Hit the floor! Cover your heads!” someone yelled. Knowing that if I got down on the floor, it would take a crane to hoist me up, I bent over and covered my head my purse. Again, I prayed until I broke down and wept as a woman stroked my back and prayed  over me.

“We’re all going to be all right,” she whispered. In spite of the  terror in my heart, I nodded. I knew that, even at that moment, God was still  in control. We would indeed be safe.

“Are you here by yourself?” she asked.

“No,” I replied. “My husband is out there with our friend in his booth. But our car is out on the lot. I’m so afraid that –.”

About that time, someone walked in swinging a lantern that lit up even the darkest part of the bathroom. Meanwhile, the air grew really hot, muggy, and eerily still. We could have heard a proverbial pin drop.

Eventually, I began to hear that the second twister had shifted direction. Only for a third to follow close on its heels. I began to wonder when we would ever get to leave the building.

How long is this going to go on? Are we going to spend the night here? 

I thought of our little dog back home and whether the weather was as deadly in Arlington as it was where we were. There was nothing I could do about Russet, other than to trust she would be okay.

Not long after that,  I noticed that women began to filter out if the restroom. I got up to walk out to look for Jeff. Was I ever relieved to find him sitting in our friend’s booth. I ran out to him, buried my face in his chest, and cried from relief on his strong shoulders.

After we stayed with Jackie a little while longer, he began to shut down his booth for the night. After the three of us shook hands and excahnged one-armed hugs, Jeff and I wandered out to the parking lot where our car appeared none the worse for wear and headed straight home, as emergency vehicles whizzed toward the scene of destruction and drivers huddled underneath bridges to shield their cars from hail that sounded like cannonballs when it hit the windshield.

Around six-thirty p.m., as we were nearing Lancaster, the rain stopped and the skies began to clear up. Although we had considered grabbing a bite on down the road, we decided to grab a few groceries at WinCo and head home, instead, where we heated  some soup, held each other for a long, long time before falling fell asleep in each other’s arms.

On Sunday morning, as we rode to church, I looked down at my gleaming silver-and- gold Bionic Band. I couldn’t help laughing at our human tendency to place our trust in “stuff”. Up to about three o’clock or so, on the day before, Jeff and I had placed our trust in two pieces of metal on our wrists until three tornadoes in rapid succession bore down on the city of Canton and left it in shock after many of its people were injured or killed  and many businesses demolished.

After living through my first tornado, I realized, even more than before, that they are no respecters of persons or places. They don’t make sense in the people they randomly injure or kill or the property they wipe out.

Whoa, but neither do they make sense in the people and places they spare. Among them, folks like us who happened to wander into Canton for one last hurrah.

Bottom line: we survived. We are safe. And, once again, we realized that we are blessed.

So, dear readers, here’s the question I have for you: have you ever wound up in the middle of a dangerous situation?

Many thanks to the Storm Chasers for risking their lives to produce this YouTube video of the in Canton, Texas tornadoes.

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