Monday, November 18, 2013

Too Close To Home

Yesterday was really weird.

Today's local paper.

We were at church and there was a buzz about a tornado warning. Service was over and most of the congregation quickly dissipated to the safety of nearby homes.

I had to stay a little later, as I had been teaching in the kids' ministry and had to close up shop. We meet inside of a mall with no immediate outdoor access -- thus, no windows. No view of the storm.

We walked to the exit and were faced with one of those crucial decisions: stay or go. Others around us were looking at their phones, listening to the radio and trying to figure out what to do. The storm was to the west of us. It was hard to know how much immediate danger we were in because a tornado warning for the whole huge county could leave certain areas untouched.

Home was a five-minute drive.

A break in the rain translated into "go-time." We piled into the minivan and I fought Jonathan into his carseat, despite his protests to do it himself (stubborn independent stinker!). We started driving with tears flowing inside the car and rain slamming the outside. My mom followed nervously behind in her car.

It wasn't pretty out. The clouds were dark and low and glowed somewhat eerily. My heart quickened as we pulled onto the main street and the rain came harder.

The streets had little traffic but the going was slow as more and more water came crashing on all sides. I had never seen flash flooding in my life but it was suddenly apparent how it happens. I said a quick prayer and then was at a loss for words. Because what else can you say beyond a simple "help"?

The rain was pounding loudly and I heard an alarm. "Are the sirens going off???" I panicked, regretting our decision to leave. Marc stayed calm and gripped the wheel, though we could hardly see more than a few feet in any direction. 

It wasn't the tornado sirens after all; it was my emergency weather app, which was angrily shouting at us to find cover. It went off several times and I wanted to smash my phone on the dash. As long as the real tornado sirens didn't go off I had at least a little sense of security in my head.

"Where's my mom?!!! Is she still behind us?" I couldn't see her but Marc assured me she was okay. I felt terrible that we convinced her to drive instead of ride with us. Every decision seemed bad, very bad.

Marc held steady and the kids quietly commented on the rain. He had us all sing "Jesus loves me" while I continued my subdued panic attack. And then...the eternal stoplight. We were so close, only a few blocks from home! I stared down that traffic signal with my best death look but it didn't turn. I was relieved to see the blurry outline of my mom's car pull up behind us. I hadn't given her a death sentence after all.

I strained to hear the sirens -- would we be able to hear them with the howling wind and the rain pounding so hard?

Green light! And we turned down our street, pulled into our driveway in one piece. Hurry kids, hurry! Inside! Inside!

Getting kids to hurry is like herding cats.

But just like that we were inside...soaking wet but presumably safe. I hugged my mom and thank God I hadn't killed her -- or any of us.

I was shaking from the adrenaline. And then, minutes later, the sun came out. It almost made me angry. Really, after all of that? We should have just stayed a few more minutes?!!

After some serious relaxing I sat by window and looked out at the leaves, which were still blowing around furiously.

I tried not to think too hard about what this scene would have looked like under different circumstances.

Over the course of the afternoon, the power flickered and we heard about the stories from around town. Hail the size of baseballs. Trees and branches down everywhere. Tens of thousands without power for most of the day.

And then...Washington. F4. Only forty miles away. Complete devastation.

I'm shaken up but grateful. Feeling stupid but grateful. And eager to help. Eager to build up my community.

If there's a silver lining, it's that. Community. 

Everyone in Bloomington, Normal and the surrounding areas has a story from yesterday. And we're all waiting to see what's next, wanting to help our neighbors. 

Post by Illinois Tornado Recovery.


  1. We got the storm after you all. It was an odd, scary one. I'm glad your family is well. We are praying for all of the victims.

  2. I'm in Naperville, North of you and it was pretty scary looking here too! I can't believe there were something like 50 reported tornadoes during the storm!

  3. Thank you for this post. What devastation. We never expect it to be "us". Beautiful that your heart is to reach out and help. I wish I had done that here in Colorado with the floods but felt helpless. Your right though. Community is what matters. Thank you:).

  4. This reminds me of our time in St Louis. A couple of storms holding the kids in our basement with everything howling around outside. This is so scary. I'm glad you were safe.

  5. How scary! I'm so glad you didn't get caught in the worst of it.

  6. How scary! Glad you are safe.

    xo & now following

  7. So terrifying. I think sometimes God lets us pass through the storms and scary experiences so we appreciate the amazing sunlight afterwards. I'm glad you made it home safely. How utterly freaky.

  8. Gina, I'm glad that you and your family are safe, and thank you for the reminder to keep praying for those who were directly impacted! We have family who recently moved away from Peoria, so I've been in that Washington/Peoria area! How sad!

    I am sure that your efforts to help your neighbors are a huge blessing!

  9. That is so hard, Gina! I hope you guys are doing well!

  10. This is sad and so scary. I am glad to hear you and your family are safe!

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  11. This post made gave me chills and brought tears to my eyes. Praying for everyone. I'm glad you and your family are safe, but so sorry that it was all literally so close to home.


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