That is the only word that comes to mind when my thoughts drift back to a time when I was a young college boy living a carefree life without end.
During the spring of my senior year at Evangel University in Springfield, Mo., a large mid-western metropolis nestled in the heart of the Ozark Mountains, a tornado reeled through the city streets wreaking havoc as it bounced directly over our house.
I quickly realized my life could have been snuffed out in the blink of an eye.
With graduation in the not to distant future, I felt the weight of what laid ahead after I walked the line and went out into the “real” world. I had decided to spend a quiet weekend at home, or so I thought, to take a break from college dorm life.
While watching television in our spacious family room, which was subdivided to include the living room, the movie I had been fully engrossed in was interrupted with a news bulletin, noting that several twisters had been spotted on the western edge of town heading in our direction.
I didn’t pay very much attention to the report. Because during the nearly four years of living in Springfield, tornadoes typically skirted the surrounding area, but never actually came through the Queen City of the Ozarks.
Besides, it was a bright sunny day outside with all the familiar sounds of spring in the air. The birds were chirping as they busily built their nests and squirrels gleefully scampered up and down nearby trees gathering acorns.
However, everything changed within minutes.
The activities and sounds of the outdoors became deathly quiet as a dark cloud blanketed the city. A shiver ran up my spine as I stepped out onto the front porch to witness the ghastly change in the weather. The sky was an eerie green.
A lump formed in my throat as I re-entered the house to hear that a funnel cloud had touched down at the other end of the city and was heading directly towards us.
My father, who was the only one home other than myself, began getting the supplies ready to head into the shelter of the basement when the telephone suddenly rang out piercing with silence felt throughout the house.
My youngest sister had called from the public library a few blocks away.
She mentioned that everyone was being escorted to the basement of the building, but she was frightened and wanted our father to go outdoors with a tornado bearing down upon us to pick her up.
For the sake of argument, she was in the safest building within the town and my sister wanted to leave. Not only that, but she also wanted our father to risk life and limb to go get her. I just shook my head.
I was flabbergasted when he ran out the door leaving me to face the eye of the tornado alone. Are you kidding?
Before leaving the house, my father told me to get into the storm cellar, which was accessed through a trap door on the enclosed back porch just off the kitchen.
The ceiling wasn’t high enough for a full grown person to stand upright. I was not about to step foot into that dingy, dirty hole in the ground by myself with the dozens of cobwebs and all the unknown insects lurking in the darkness.
Thinking I was not in any mortal danger, I continued to listen to the special news bulletin on the television screen. However, a moment later I was horrified when the TV station cut out. My first thought was the tornado had hit it.
I quickly went over and turned on the radio in the living room to continue tracking with twister’s path as it made a beeline directly toward our house.
With the tornado bearing down upon us, I was unable to control my bodily functions. I hear you laughing. Let’s see how you would react if your life was about to flash before your eyes.
But that’s not the half of it. The only bathroom in the house was on the second floor. So when I should have been going to the lowest part of the house, I went to the highest portion of our home.
With desperation, I quickly went up the stairs, taking them two at a time. If the tornado hit our house, all I could think about was rescue workers finding my body attached to the toilet seat in a nearby tree.
With no electricity now, I was in total darkness.
After sitting through a deadly calm, the hairs on the back of my neck stood up when I heard the eerie sound of the emergency siren atop the fire station several blocks away announcing its warning of the tornado’s arrival.
In the blink of an eye, the weather made a drastic turn for the worse as I began to hear hail pelting against the house and the howling wind wreaking havoc on the other side of the wall.
Although I had no idea where the twister actually was at that point in time, I knew my life could have been potentially in jeopardy.
Within moments, I raced back down the steps nearly falling headlong at the foot of the stairs.
As I made my way to the storm cellar, past the piano in the foyer and through the pantry, I heard the crashing of glass on the back side of the house.
It was too late. Death and destruction was upon me. I was not prepared for what was to come next.
I dove head first under the kitchen table desperate to seek shelter from the tornado that I imagined was about to rip our house to shreds.
The next few moments were so utterly horrifying. Trees in the backyard uprooted and slammed against our house like toothpicks. Parts of our roof and chimney detached from the house and flung into the parking lot next to us as the particles randomly smashed vehicles.
As I laid there in the fetal position with my eyes tightly closed, it sounded like the house was caving in around me; and I was at death’s door.
It was only after the terrifying twister which left as quickly as it came, sparing our home, that I discovered my father and sister had been driving through the torrent of wicked weather. They witnessed the funnel cloud bouncing from building to building overhead as they headed for the house.
Just like the time God spared my life when I smashed my face into a tree many years earlier, I believe He put up His hand of protection and stopped the tornado from tearing our house asunder.
My Heavenly Father was not finished with me yet. I was fearfully and wonderfully made. He had a higher purpose for my life.
Mark S. Price is a former city government/county education reporter for The Sampson Independent. He currently resides in Clinton.