The first thing I heard was the siren, telling me to get to safety. I had to hurry. I needed to find Alexa and Ben and get them to the storm cellar.
Ten seconds later I could hear a horrible screeching noise. It sounded like a high-pitched scream.
“Oh no,” I thought to myself, “it’s coming.” I started to yell, “Alexa, Ben come here! Quick!”
Alexa, my five year old daughter was playing in her room with her 12-year-old brother, Ben. They ran downstairs as quick as they could. They weren’t fast enough. We did not have time to get outside to the storm cellar.
When they rounded the corner to the kitchen it was too late. The monstrous tornado was here! I grabbed the back of their shirts and yanked them under the kitchen table. Alexa started sobbing because she was so scared. I comforted her and told her it would be all right.
Ben knew the answer and he asked, “Mom, don’t you know why Alexa is crying?”
I did not know the answer to that question so I said, “No Ben. I don’t know why Alexa is crying. I think she is just scared of the tornado.”
“No, Mom, she’s not scared of the tornado. When the siren sounded, Shadow got scared and took off down the stairs. She could get hurt in the tornado. She is only 10-months old. She has never encountered anything like this before,” stated Ben.
“Okay then. Stay here with your sister and I will go search for Shadow.”
I left Ben under the table to calm Alexa down while I went to search for that crazy dog. “Alexa’s black Labrador could be anywhere,” I whispered under my breath.
I could not find Shadow. She had disappeared. I had frantically searched almost every place in the house, I only had a couple of minutes left to get back to the table before the tornado hit my house. All I had left to search was the family room. The family room is in the back corner of the house. It is on its own separate hallway and almost completely separate from the rest of the house. I looked under the couches and in every corner, I was about to give up when something black under one of the couches caught my eye.
“Come here, Shadow!” I screamed, as I darted towards the black thing, hoping it was Shadow. When I reached the couch I realize it was not Shadow it was her tug-of-war toy. I was surprised. Shadow never leaves Alexa’s side. At that moment I realized that Shadow would find Alexa no matter what. Shadow would be with Alexa under the table in the kitchen.
Meanwhile, Ben was trying to calm Alexa down. She would not stop crying until she found Shadow, so Ben and Alexa went to search for Shadow by themselves. They had no idea where she could be.
“I’ll go look downstairs in the basement. You go up to your room she might be under your bed or in her bed.” Ben said, “If the tornado gets any closer hide under something heavy, like your bed. Okay?”
“Okay.” replied Alexa.
When I got back to the table I started to sob, “Where are my kids?” I couldn’t do anything. The tornado was here. I could hear the tornado throwing things in the neighbor’s yard. All I could do was sit under the table in the kitchen, wait out the storm, and pray my kids were all right.
Things were flying everywhere. Pieces of wood were soaring through the air. Something hit me on the head. The last thing I could remember was something black running towards me.
When I woke up the storm was over. The tornado had passed. I had some bruises, my ankle was throbbing and so was my head. I was lying on the ground in the middle of my kitchen floor. I did not dare to move because I did not know how bad I was hurt or how damaged the house was. Then it dawned on me, “Where were Ben and Alexa? Were they okay?” I had to find them but I could not move. “Why couldn’t I move? What was wrong?” I asked myself these questions over and over until I decided to get up and look around.
I was about to sit up but there was something on my legs. I looked up and there was that crazy dog. “Shadow! Shadow! Get off of me!” Shadow stood up and came over to lick my face. I sat up and pat Shadow’s head. I studied him carefully he was not hurt at all.
I looked around; the kitchen was a complete mess. One wall was torn all the way down. Other than that wall, the fridge was on its side, the floor was all ripped up, and the table I was hiding under had fallen on my ankle. That would explain why it hurt.
That’s when it hit me: I thought of the perfect idea. “Shadow!” When I said that, I startled the poor dog, “Go find Alexa and Ben. Come on!” It took us a little while to get out of the kitchen because it hurt to put pressure on my ankle.
First, we tried to go look upstairs in their bedrooms but there were no stairs. They had been ripped down by the winds of the tornado. I hoped they were not up there because it would take a while to get them down.
I searched the entire first floor only to find the house completely destroyed. I headed towards the door that led to the basement. I hobbled down the stairs with Shadow at my heal. At the bottom of the stairs was one of Alexa’s favorite shoes.
“Oh no.” I thought to myself, “I hope my kids are all right.”
Right in front of me was the door leading outside. I grabbed the handle and pushed the door open.
When we got outside, I searched the yard. I was surprised to find the roof of our porch on top of the storm cellar door. “Great–how am I supposed to find my kids?” I wondered to myself.
Another siren sounded. This time it was a tornado rescue crew. “Yes! Over here!” I shouted while jumping up and down on one leg. Five men dashed out of a big white truck and ran over to me as fast as they could. I told them everything. I told them about the tornado and my kids going missing. I told them that I thought they were in the storm cellar because that is where I taught them to go during a storm. Impatiently I waited and watched as they pried the roof off the storm cellar.
It felt like days. Piece by piece they took the roof off the storm cellar. Every time they took a piece of wood off the storm cellar I got more hopeful.
Finally, every piece of wood was off the door. I limped towards the storm cellar only to open the doors and find nothing. “But… But…” I stammered.
Then it hit me. Lightning struck my head. My kids were upstairs. They must have gone up there to look for Shadow because Shadow feels safe in Alexa’s bedroom. There were no stairs so I had not checked there yet. That must have been where they were.
“Quick, follow me! I think I know where my kids are!” The words exploded out of my mouth.
“Okay guys. You heard her. Go into the house!” yelled the shortest man, Richard.
“You guys are going to need a ladder. The stairs got torn away during the storm and I think my kids are upstairs on the second floor,” I said as they started walking to the door.
Three out of the five men dashed to their van and surprisingly they had a ladder in my house before I got to the stairs. The men set up the ladder and one of the men, Philip, climbed up. “Any one up here?” he asked.
Alexa poked her head around the corner. Her eyes were all red from crying. The moment she saw Shadow, the expression on her face was priceless. Her smile reached from ear to ear. Philip brought her down. The moment he placed her on the floor she ran over to Shadow and gave her a huge hug. She was glad to see that her dog was okay. Philip went back up the ladder. This time he got off the ladder and searched the upstairs floor.
“Ma’am, there is no one else up here. Are you sure they were both up here in the first place,” Philip said.
When he finished speaking I turned to Alexa. “Alexa, honey, where is Ben?” I asked, trying to be as calm as possible.
“I don’t know,” she replied, half crying.
“When did you last see him?”
“Before the tornado hit our house.”
“Where was he?”
“He was on his way to the basement. He went down the stairs to check the basement while I went up the stairs to check the upstairs floor.”
“Why did you not go with him?” I said, starting to stress out.
“He said not to! Okay!?” she screamed at me.
“Okay. Okay. Okay. Alexa, it’s all right,” I said, calming myself down. Alexa calmed down also.
We talked to each other for a minute. She told me lots of things but not the one thing I wanted to hear.
I could not believe it. Had I really lost my son? I did not believe what was happening. Somewhere deep down in my gut I knew I would find him. I blamed myself for everything, I should not have gone looking for Shadow. She could have found a way to stay safe. He ended up on my legs, unhurt after the tornado. Leaving Alexa and Ben under the table was the worst mistake of my life.
Five minutes of silence passed. No one knew where Ben was. I thought of screaming, but he could be far away and he probably could not hear me. I needed to find Ben, my life would not go on without him. Then all of the sudden I remembered his “underground hideout,” the closet under the stairs in the basement. He likes to hang out with his friends down there. He tells everyone that he feels safe in that hideout. Whenever he needs to hide he goes to that spot.
“Quick! To the basement! I think I know where Ben is! He is always saying that he feels safe under the stairs in the basement. The walls are really thick down there so he probably cannot hear us yelling for him. I don’t think he knows the tornado is over,” I said.
Everyone charged down the stairs to the basement. I followed them as quick as I could but they were faster than me. They all charged down the stairs. Even Shadow had gone downstairs with Alexa.
I hobbled very slowly, one step at a time, down the stairs. When my foot was on the last step I heard Ben talking. I couldn’t believe it–they had found him at last! I had finally found Ben! I knew I would eventually find him, but it still surprised me.
“Ben! Ben! Ben?” I screamed. No answer. I knew I heard his voice, but it must have been an illusion. I must really miss him.
I knew I heard Ben talking so I dashed around the corner into the basement. To my surprise, no one was there. I did not know what to do. Ben was gone and so was everyone else. Life didn’t make sense anymore. People can’t just disappear, walk into a room and one minute later no be there.
“I must have a concussion,” I thought.
“Mom!” I heard Ben saying. It sounded like it was coming from the garage. He was in the garage. I started running to the door that leads into the garage. Just as I reached for the handle, I heard Ben say, “Wake up! Wake up!”
“Wake up from what?” I thought, “Oh no! Did someone fall and get knocked out? What happened? Why is Ben saying wake up?”
I ripped open the garage door to find nothing. There was no one there. That is when I started to feel dizzy. Everything started to turn black and disappear.
“Wake up Mom! Wake up!” Ben was saying over and over again. Slowly I began to regain consciousness.
“Mom!” Alexa exclaimed.
When I knew I was finally awake, I asked, “What happened? Was that a dream?”
Alexa was the first to answer. “Was what a dream?”
“The tornado! Was the tornado a dream? Did a tornado hit our house? Was that a dream, or was it real? One more thing–why are we in the hospital?”
“That was all a dream,” she replied. “Mom, we were outside in the woods out back, walking Shadow. You were holding Shadow’s leash when she saw a chipmunk and took off. You tried to pull her back but she is strong and she pulled you forward, you tripped over a branch, let go of Shadow’s leach and hit your head on a rock. I could not see Shadow anymore so I started to cry. Ben went to go find Shadow and bring her back to me. After about five minutes he appeared through the bushes holding Shadow’s leash.”
Ben interrupted her. “When I got back with Shadow, Alexa took her leash and stayed with you while I went into the house to call 911. I explained as much as I could to them, as fast as I could. It only took a minute or so for them to get here. When I heard the sirens I knew that the ambulance was here and that they would take you to the hospital.”
“That must have been the siren that I thought was the tornado warning.” I said to no one in particular. Then I asked Alexa a question. “Alexa, why does my leg hurt?”
“Mom, could you please let us finish.” Alexa snapped, “I was getting to that part. The doctor said that when you tripped over the branch some of the bones in your leg broke.
“Oh that makes sense!” I exclaimed, “But why have I heard you talking if I was unconscious?”
This time it was the doctor who answered. “You have been gaining consciousness for some time now. I thought you would wake up earlier than you did.”
I tried to put the entire story together, but there were some parts missing. Alexa saw the look on my face and as if she could read my mind she said, “Mom that is not the entire story. There is a lot more information. Ben and I will tell you the rest of the story another time.”
After spending a couple of days in the hospital we all went home. Alexa and Ben told me the rest of the story. They told me everything up until we arrived at the hospital. The doctor had told them that my injury was really bad and that it would take a very long time for me to be able to get up and walk on my own again.
When I tripped over the branch all the bones in my ankle shattered. I have a cast on and I am stuck in a wheelchair for about 3 months. It is going to be hard to get everything back to normal but I know Ben and Alexa, maybe even Shadow will help. Eventually I will get back up on my feet. It will be hard work but my kids know that I can do it. They are counting on me, and I will not let them down.
They told me that the injury to my head would cause long term memory loss. Life would never be the same for me. It would be very hard to remember anything that happened before I fell and hit my head.
Even though I will never be the same, I would rather be alive and with my family then have someone in my family gone. My injuries are nothing compared to losing Ben.
This entire experience was very odd. Together as a family we have made it through all of it. That is one thing I never want to have to do again. I don’t think any family wants to go through this. There are some things, that as a person you never want to hear, and a tornado warning is on the top of that list.