As I left work that day, the sky loomed ominously above me. Dark purple, grey, green, black clouds were swirling. A Nebraskan born and raised, I knew what that meant. Storms a-comin’.
As I pulled into my parking lot the rain started. Not hard, not soft, just steady. I quickly rushed up the three flights of stairs to my apartment, trying to dodge the unavoidable drops falling from the sky.
On my computer screen, I watched stormchasers report their surroundings. It wasn’t looking good. I had never been afraid of tornadoes, growing up in Nebraska I learned they were just part of life. But that summer, so many lives had been claimed by tornadoes. Swept up in a swirl of destruction. I nervously saw reports of funnel clouds and hail. I looked out the window and I could feel the atmosphere change.
My phone rang. I saw that it was my sister. I hit “talk” and immediately heard sobs. “He died, Shan. He DIED,” she said in between ragged breaths. I felt my body stiffen. Well, this was what we were all waiting on. To say that we were waiting sounds cruel, but that’s what we were doing. It was a waiting game. He had been sick for so long. He was so tired. It was time. But that didn’t make the blow any lighter.
I called my mom. I could hear the tears in her voice. “Yeah honey, he’s gone. I’m on the way to grandma’s. I’ll call you in a bit.” I felt a few wet drops fall down my cheeks.
I sat woodenly on the couch and watched the pings of activity on the stormchasing website that was still open on my computer. I went outside to look at the sky, maybe snap a picture. The sky was a crazy tie dyed green color. I heard a train pass by. I lived next to some train tracks, I had learned to ignore their consistent rumble in the night soon after moving into my little one bedroom apartment. But I didn’t ignore them this time.
6th grade science. Mrs. Jones. “The sound of a tornado will sound like a passing train.”
The sirens went on. I turned on the TV. “Take cover,” the man in the suit in front of the map told me. I wrangled the cats into their carriers and took off down the stairs.
Running through the pouring rain, I couldn’t tell which were tears and which were raindrops on my wet face. I sat in the basement of my apartment clubhouse with the other tenants. Still in my work clothes, with two very angry cats in carriers, the loss clearly etched on my face.
I could hear the wind howling outside. And then it passed.
As I stepped outside into the fading light, rain softly falling around me, I thought, “Grandpa couldn’t go out quietly, could he?”