“I have both the violent turbulence of the storm and the quiet promises of God in the storm. And what I must work to remember is that something is not necessarily stronger simply because it’s louder.”
― Craig D. Lounsbrough
After the house disappeared with everything in it, we found ourselves crawling out from under the garage door. We stood on the driveway gawking at the lack of houses down the road, wondering if what just happened could have really happened? The first thing Mom and Dad did was to find out if our neighbours and relatives were hurt; everything was “obliteration” personified. The only house on the other side of the road was so small and rickety that it could barely stand up on its own, with or without wind. But it had stubbornly remained standing, making fools of all the other houses. When the twister started dancing, its owners had rushed across the road to take shelter in my uncle’s strong brick house —a nearly fatal decision. The ceiling in the basement where they had taken shelter had caved in, stopping just short of crushing them all. They had to crawl out from beneath it. The word went up and down the road; everyone was miraculously safe. Betsy, Susie and Tom returned to the remains of their house to wait for their parents arrival.
The next “think” we had to do was to figure out what to do —we couldn’t stand in the driveway forever! Lo and behold, a car appeared driving slowly and cautiously down the road. Dad quickly hailed the car and it came to a halt. The occupants were newlyweds. The wife was squeezed against her husband, shaking and bug-eyed. She was so scared by the tornado and its annihilation of everything that she didn’t really want to let us in —as though we were bringing with us a plague. Without second thoughts, Dad asked them for a lift into town and we all climbed into their small car. Bessie and I brought our dolls to keep them safe (thankfully, they had been sleeping in their cradles in the basement).
The wife kept mumbling to herself, “What a honeymoon… what a honeymoon… what a honeymoon!” Electric poles and wires were littered across the main road and it soon became apparent that some roads were unsafe. We took a detour and snaked through long country roads and eventually reached the city. Mom stepped on a nail climbing out of the garage so we went to a friend for a tetanus injection. Then we were driven to the home of my dad’s colleague where we spent a few nights.
It took days of washing before all the dirt and gravel came out of our hair. The Red Cross and the Mennonite Relief Committee stepped in immediately. Friends came from far away to help clear the land. Church and other organizations came full force. We went to the Red Cross Outlet and chose as many clothes as we needed or wanted for free. We sisters were overwhelmed by the rows and rows of clothes to try on. I wore that colourful, multi-pleated skirt endlessly. Fear vanished; it was all part of a big adventure. Our parents had always managed to look after our family, and we expected nothing less. We were too young to understand the huge financial burden it was to our parents. We never thought of the stress involved in losing everything valuable, like our photos and other irreplaceable memorabilia. Rebuilding our home and keeping our family together was enough to concentrate on. With all the support and aid that came in, our expectation of our parents heroically managing every situation was met.
For a while we rented an apartment. When the land had been cleared, we moved into a trailer on our property. We kids thought living in the trailer was great fun, like luxurious camping, although our parents didn’t feel the same way. It was very cramped living —only possible because we had nothing to put in it. Finally, the basement was repaired and liveable. After moving into the basement, which seemed spacious and homey, the upstairs was slowly rebuilt.
A few kids in Bessie’s class died that day.
Death is naked before God; Destruction lies uncovered…
Job 26:6 NIV
We lived. Now I know that tornadoes are appostrogetic. If Dad had waited even a minute longer to drop Betsy back home, both he and Betsy would have been gone… but this was not God’s plan.
Weather Forecast Office
On Palm Sunday, April 11, 1965, Indiana was one of six Midwest states to be raked by deadly tornadoes. In all, 47 tornadoes killed 271 people and injured over 1,500. This was the fourth deadliest tornado outbreak in U.S. history and the deadliest of all Indiana outbreaks. In Indiana 137 people were killed and over 1,200 injured by ten tornadoes during the late afternoon and evening hours that day. Damages came to 5.5 billion dollars.
*The photo is the tornado that hit our house; afterwards it spilt into a double tornado and traveled down a well-used highway near us. It is about to devour, ravish and kill many in a mobile home park.
Have I imagined this tornado to be a training ground for the future? I never thought of it as being a training ground at all; not for life or love. “Life,” a word meaning so much more than a dictionary can express. I have figured it out: “a wonderful and frightening thing, designed by God.”
“Death is naked before God; destruction lies uncovered…” Job was right.