I'm Just Sayin'
Random Thoughts from a Random Guy

After the Storm

Folks in southern Illinois will appreciate this post more than others.  May 8, 2009 is a date that will stay with us forever.  It all really started in the late night hours of May 7th.  We had one hell of a hail storm that night.  High wind, lots of rain.

During the storm

The next day, which was a Friday, started off normal enough.  I got up and went to work.  After anchoring the news, I headed over to John A. Logan College to shoot a story about the growing number of men entering the nursing profession.  I remember being over on campus after shooting the story and dodging the raindrops.  I wrote and edited my story, trying to get out of the station by noon.  I was supposed to play in my first golf scramble that day for charity.  My friends who I was supposed to play with sent me messages via Facebook, asking if I was still coming because by then, it was pouring down rain.  The management at the golf course said they were hoping to get the scramble going around 1, once the rain passed.  I figured, there was no way we’d play as the rain poured down.  So I headed home, which is only about seven minutes away from the station.  I was listening to a local talk show and the host said he was concerned about the storm that was hitting the town he was broadcasting from and he was going to seek shelter and start playing music.  That’s when it hit me that something bad was coming our way.  It had stopped raining at that point, but the clouds in the sky were big, black and ominous.

I got home a little after 1 to find Lisa working with the day care kids on a Mother’s Day project.  They were cleaning up, one boy was still making his shirt.  So I took the other kids into Brooke’s room and got their cots out and read them a story for nap.  As I was reading, the wind was whipping against the bedroom window.  Just to play it safe, I suggested we all get out of the room and move to the interior bathroom of the house.  Just as we were filing in, the power went out.  Of course with a bunch of two and three year olds, they started crying.  I got a candle to provide some light and that seemed to calm their frazzled nerves.

After the storm

I went back into the living room and Lisa and the last boy were finishing the project.  I remember looking out the front window and seeing roof shingles and siding being ripped violently from the neighbors house.  Lisa screamed as she saw it too, and we got the boy into the bathroom with the others.  I tried corral Spot, because I remember thinking if this is a tornado coming, who knows where we’re going to end up.  I nervously (and stupidly) walked around the house, peering out the window and taking pictures as the wind rattled the windows and destroyed our neighborhood.   At one point, when I thought it had stopped, I went outside to get a look at the destruction.  I watched in horror as our fence was pulverized by Mother Nature.  I only stayed out for a minute as the winds picked up again.  I pictured myself getting whacked in the head with a stray piece of siding or being impaled by a fence post, ala Victor Lang from Desperate Housewives (you know, Gabbie’s husband after she and Carlos split up).  So I went back inside.  We rode out the rest of the storm in the bathroom hunkered down with five kids, none of them older than 4.

When it was over, Lisa and I went outside to start assessing the damage and chatting with neighbors about what we’d just experienced.  By the way, we live right next to the kids’ school and I remember looking out the window at one point and seeing the tarp on the roof doming over the building.  After checking on folks around us, I walked up to school to get the kids.  It was dark inside, and very muggy.  Parents were arriving to get their kids on foot and on four wheeler.  The storm had knocked down trees and powerlines on the main road into Carterville.  There was literally no way in or out of town that day (and night).

Yes, I helped with the neighbor's roof.

The neighbors across the street had planned a gathering at their house that night, but no one could make it over, so they had a ton of food from 17th Street.  So they did the neighborly thing and invited us all over.  We set up chairs and tables in their driveway and brought extra goodies.  The next five nights we did our meals like that.  It was an amazing time.  We gathered together, fired up the grill and shared.  Food and stories.  It was the best part of the storm.  We helped cover roofs before the next round of rain arrived, we helped cut up downed trees, and we retrieved lost items blown away.

Of course, since the water heater was run off electricity that meant lots of cold showers.  We would heat water up on the stove (gas) and put it in the tub for the kids to take a warm bath.  We’d have all the pots we own going so there would be enough for them to bathe.  The storm happened on Friday night, we didn’t get power back until Tuesday night.  We kept the deep freezer loaded with bags of ice until we were able to get a hold of a generator.

Cutting downed trees

I think the most surreal thing about the storm was knowing that the damage was impacting me and my family directly.  As a reporter I’ve seen tornado damage, fire damage, flooding, etc.  But this was the first time ever that I’d experienced it directly.  Even though we lost our fence and needed a new roof, the important thing was we were all okay.   One year later though, we are still seeing the affects of the storm around southern Illinois.  There are still roofs that need to be repaired.  There are still parks with broken playground equipment.

As people rebuild from the storm, it’s important to remember the time we spent in the days that followed.  It truly was a special time, and the one true ray of sunshine in a storm that won’t soon be forgotten.

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