Last night, probably in part due to the extremely high heat, we experienced a storm far more severe than we usually get in these parts. Hubby and I were sitting in the family room watching television during the storm, the electricity was going on and off, and all of a sudden he was up in a flash, running outside and looking at the sky in a particular direction. When I went to ask him if everything was okay, he said that the wind just did not sound right.
That may have been the understatement of the year.
He was listening for a train sound (which we get here all the time, since there are lots of railroad tracks in the area) because he said that is the sound of a tornado. Mind you, we do not normally get tornadoes in this area since we are surrounded by hills, but it has happened, and that wind was fierce.
My niece was in her apartment at the University of Alabama when the tornado tore the town of Tuscaloosa to bits. Her phone was down and I was the only family member online at the time, so she sent me a chat message and asked me to tell her mom and dad that she loved them. Of course, I had no idea what was happening there, but I was alarmed by that message, obviously. When I asked her what was going on and she told me about the storm and described the horrible sound she was hearing, hubby told me to tell her as quickly as my fingers could type to stop what she was doing immediately, grab her mattress, get in the bathtub and pull the mattress over her, because she was about to get a direct hit by a massive tornado.
His immediate recognition of the sound she was hearing saved her life. The tornado hit just moments after she got into the tub with the mattress. It tore that building to shreds, but she survived without serious injury. Without hubby and his quick thinking, there is no doubt whatsoever that my niece would be dead. Needless to say, when hubby is worried about a tornado, I take his concern seriously and without question.
The storm from last night ripped through the region with a fury. It tore roofs off houses, collapsed porches, ripped very large trees out by the roots, and even picked up and flipped an airplane at the airport. My son was transporting a client home after a shopping trip when the storm hit (he treats the behaviorally disabled one-on-one in a community setting, to teach them how to control their behaviors with the goal of independent living), and he said that he saw a funnel cloud when it picked up a car and tossed it around like a rag doll.
Thank God my son was not harmed, and his client was not harmed. Also, thank God that he had the sense to immediately seek shelter, and not to even try to drive back into town in that storm, because he would have been driving right into the eye of it. He was very close to our home when it happened, so he immediately brought his client to my house for safety reasons.
His client has the mind of a child, so he was absolutely terrified of the storm. I had met this client once before when I ran into him with my son out shopping one day, so he already knew who I was, and knew that he could trust me to protect him from the storm. Once we reassured him that he was perfectly safe inside our brick house, he played with our dog while I chatted with him about an outdoor concert my son had taken him to see, which was very exciting for him as he had never been to a concert before. When he got bored with the chit-chat, my son (a very popular musician in this area) pulled out his guitar and played music for him. He was mesmerized by seeing a guitar being played up close, and my son even showed him how to play a couple of chords himself, which absolutely delighted him. These pleasant distractions took his mind completely off the storm, bless his heart.
My phone was ringing off the hook as soon as the storm was over, with my future daughter-in-law just wanting to know if we were okay (though I was far more concerned about her, since her shift at work ended just as the worst of the storm hit). I called relatives to check on them, checked on the neighbors door-to-door, and hubby was out with his chainsaw removing downed trees, and checking for damage on all the neighborhood houses (he has been in construction for over 30 years, so he can easily spot problems which laymen might overlook). Luckily, our street is fine.
Today, hubby is riding his truck up and down a holler which was hard-hit by the storm, and stopping to help anybody who needs assistance. I am staying home because we take care of his best friend, who has stage 4 lung cancer due to asbestos exposure. Normally I would drop our friend off to visit with his grandkids on Saturdays, but their mother has no electricity due to the storm. This means there is no air conditioning on yet another 100-degree day, so it is not really safe for him to be there in his condition.
Instead they will all be coming here, as will my future daughter-in-law and her dog, since none of them have electricity today, and it is unclear when electrical service will be restored due to the extent of the outages. Luckily we have a big house, so there is plenty of room for everyone, even if they need to stay overnight. We also have a big fenced backyard for the kids to play in and lots of food for the grill, so I expect a very pleasant day today, despite the storm of yesterday.
As the saying goes, There but for the grace of God go I. This applies whether you are taking care of a friend with cancer, helping a stranger who has damage from a storm, or providing respite for friends and family from a deadly heatwave. In West Virginia, we are raised to put the needs of others first, and we are all the better for it.
We are not on this earth to only think of ourselves, after all, though that narcissistic viewpoint is increasingly common. We are social animals for a reason, and that reason is that we cannot make it in this world alone. So West Virginia may be a very poor state, financially speaking, but our culture of caring makes us very wealthy indeed.
I sometimes ponder how different the world would be if everyone put the needs of others before their own selfish desires, like we do in West Virginia. I suspect it would be a far better place, and that there would be far less hatred and discontent. It is hard to hate someone who loves you enough to help even if you are a complete stranger, after all, and there is a great deal of contentment to be had in viewing the entire world as your extended family. We are indeed all relatives from some ancient point in time, after all. :-)