Monday, April 18, 2011

Our Tornado Party!

So Saturday night I had planned a Fondue Party with some of my mom friends. We were all excited about hanging out kid-free and enjoying some wine and chocolate-dipped treats. Plus, I had invited some wives from my husband's new company, so I was looking forward to meeting some new people. Well... we had our party, but it was not at all the night we had imagined. There had been some tornado warnings on the news, so a few people canceled last-minute. But most ladies didn't want to cancel their childcare reservation, so they came anyway. Everyone got here just before it started to rain, and we were all hanging out having a great time.
Then, after we had been hanging out for about an hour, the power went out. I had anticipated this, so no big deal, I broke out some candles and glow sticks and we continued to enjoy ourselves. Then people started receiving frantic phone calls from family members asking where they were in Jacksonville. A tornado had touched down about 1 mile from my house! We were nervous, but there is no basement here, so not much we could do to get into a safe location. We watched the stormy skies and the flickering lightning, but there was no green coloring or the telltale whistle of a tornado. We relaxed slightly, but then moments later started hearing and reading accounts that the tornado had struck the base housing area! This is only a few miles away, and it is where everyone's children were in childcare for the night! No one was able to get through to the childcare center for a while, and when they finally did, they were told "When it is safe to leave your location, please come pick up your child." Well, the storm had stopped at our house, but we could hear police and ambulance sirens continuously down the street at the location where the tornado had ripped through a trailer park. They waited until things quieted down a bit, then started to leave in pairs. But the phone calls and texts they sent back told us of downed power lines and trees, terrible traffic, closed roads, and--worst of all--destroyed homes in the base housing area. Here is one home down the street from the childcare center:

Despite the panic and stress, everyone was eventually able to reach their children and get home safely. And yes, all the children and people I know were completely unharmed. While there were many injuries on base (including a little toddler who is still in critical condition) so far we have not heard of any deaths from the storm. Part of me is extremely relieved to be safe, and to have been spared any damage to my family or my home. But I am also heartbroken for the Jacksonville families both on and off base who are suffering so much. The storm made me feel very alone and helpless, not so much at the time, but more the day after as we tried to process the damage. Not that it would be much different if my husband were here with us, but at least then I would feel like the whole family was safe together. Thank goodness he comes back in a few days, because this is about as much stress as one pregnant gal can handle!

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