|Joshua helping salvage what was left of Matt's apartment.|
I went home at lunch. Like I do any other day. I checked the Internet for weather changes. I looked at the weather channels on television. Almost the whole hour I was at home, I was scanning and searching. Eating lunch. Changing channels. I called my son. I told him what I saw. I ask him to find some of his friends. To get with other people. While I didn't know about the death and destruction that would take place later on, I did know bad weather was headed in his direction. He was five hours away from me, I at the very least, wanted him to be with the people who were his family now. He said he was fine. That conversation was over. I headed back to work.
At 3pm, I called Joshua again. He's got a sweet tooth he says. He's making cookies he says. I again, have been Internet stalking. Watching the rapid changes of the weather in his area. He's laughing, he's cooking, he's hungry for cookies, he's fine, he says. That conversation is over.
At 5:10pm, I am home from work. I walk in the door. I turn on the news. The city of Tuscaloosa is on every news channel playing. It's coming they say. Get to safe ground they say. I pick up the phone, trying to dial the numbers as fast as I can. Joshua answers. His voice is shaking, but no longer from laughter. His apartment is on the top floor. He is still there. Alone. All of the rooms in his apartment dump into a small hallway. All the rooms have doors that will close off. He no longer has power. He's sitting in the middle of that octagon hallway, in the dark, his voice trembling with fear.
I am now in full panic mode. As a mother, I can think of no worse thing he and I have been through together, yet alone. He is still five hours away from me. I cannot get to him, and it's now too late for him to get to anyone else. He sits alone, and we talk. He is scared. I can tell. I am his mother. I am scared. He can tell. He is my son.
He tells me he will call me back in about five minutes, he needs to call his friends. They are all systematically checking in with each other. Eight minutes later, I call him. I cannot wait. His voice level is high. He is out of his mind with fear. He is no longer huddled in his closed off hallway. He is standing in his living room. Looking out the plate glass window, as he watches the tornado rip off the top of the high school directly across the street. Eight lanes over, mass destruction is beginning. And he watches. While I am hollering, for him to get back into the hallway. There is no knowing where it is going, no knowing, whether or not the sheer force alone will not burst his plate glass window into shatters of shards. He says, he has to see, if it's his time, he has to know. He has to see.
I can no longer speak, everything in my body is in a state of frozen fear. I am listening. To his breath and his words coming in rapid, jagged succession. Then there is silence. He says, he thinks IT is gone. I slump down onto the floor, right where I stood. My legs were like jelly. My hands were shaking like a morning after an all night drunk from years ago. When I could find my voice, I told him, I would call him back in about 10 minutes. I needed time to gather my thoughts and tell the family standing over me, what was happening, five hours away.
Approximately ten minutes later, with a washed face and dry eyes, I am calling my son again. I can hear wind as we talk. My voice begins to escalate again. I ask him what that noise is that I hear. He is driving he says. I am hollering again, where? Where are you driving? They have all checked in with each other he says. Everybody but two of them. Matt and Lisa. No one has heard from them. He is driving to find Matt. I am hollering again, about light wires down, danger, and that if he out lived a tornado to die from active light wires, I would never forgive him. Ridiculous things come out of your mouth when you are scared to death.
He parks his vehicle and he begins to walk. I am still talking, still on the phone. Because I know, if something happens to him, this may be the last time I will ever hear his voice. And I cannot hang up. I am giving him constant instructions of how to walk, where not to step, as if I am there and can see. He begins to shout, that he can see Matt. He is standing in the middle of the street. His apartment is gone. But he is alive. Matt is stunned and not moving. But he is alive. Seconds before the tornado hit his apartment, he dove into his tub. A full grown tree crashed into his bedroom and stopped inches from the only wall separating him and his tub from probable death, as he lay in the bottom of that tub.
They continue on foot to Lisa's. After much banging, they finally get her to the door. She is fine. She lost her phone in the struggle to get in the basement. But she is fine. All of their group, their family, is now accounted for and safe. And alive.
Who knew that day, the sky's of Alabama would explode with danger and death. Who knew, that the perfect storm brewing in the sky would forever change the entire state of Alabama and it's residents lives. Who knew, that for so many people, life would never be the same. Who knew that the one side of eight lanes, the buildings would shake and shudder and on the other side, they would crumble and fall. Who knew, that day, so many lives would be lost. And so many people would be left to grieve the life they had known, less than 24 hours before.
Until now, this was just too much. Just too much for me to think about. To remember. Or to write about. It was all too raw and too fresh. I wasn't even there, and for weeks, I had dreams. Re-living that days phone conversations between my son and myself. Over and over again. For the people in the state of Alabama, I cannot imagine how they sleep in peace. Even now. I cannot imagine how they lay down at night, without visions of destruction playing like a movie across their minds.
I pray I never have to participate in another phone call marathon like that for the rest of my days. As a mother, the distance of five hours might as well been a million miles away. To know, that as you are speaking to your child, it may be your last, is more than any mother should have to bear. For a week, after that horrible, horrible day, I slept with the telephone under my pillow. I needed to know, should it ring, I could put my hand on it in an instant. The danger was long gone, but the memory was not.
The phone is back on it's stand now. And the state of Alabama is still recovering and rebuilding. My dreams of that day have stopped. But I imagine, their dreams continue. Their thoughts and memories of before, still fresh in their minds. May God be with all of them, as they fight to bring back everything they lost. As they struggle to remember the good ole' days. And as they honor the memories of the lives who were lost that day. Amen.