Life Is: The Most Important Thing

henryville tornado

EF4 Tornado taken from the front porch of my house by my husband. It was headed straight for downtown Henryville.

There are some moments in life when you realize how unimportant all your “stuff” is. March 2, 2012 was one of those days for me. The sun shone brightly all day and even though the newscasters had been warning of coming storms, people paid little attention. You see, southern Indiana newscasts tend to be dramatic over every flake of snow and every thunder storm. I even commented to my daughter, “There they go again, getting all excited over nothing.”

I went about my errands, chatted with people and thought in the back of my mind that I should probably get home a little early in case storms hit so my youngest wouldn’t be frightened, since she is currently schooling at home and normally hubby and older daughter would still be at work and school.

I really wasn’t all that worried. Indiana sees her fair share of tornadoes and I’ve lived here for 42 years. Just another spring storm, although a bit early this year. Tornadoes didn’t scare me that much. Be smart, take shelter, and it was doubtful it would hit. I couldn’t have been more wrong. My husband made it home early about the time I realized that every school district around us and the colleges had already sent students home, but my daughter was not here. That was the moment when that motherly gnawing in the pit of my stomach started. Whoever decided to let the students go and not keep them at the school, I thank you. My daughter and many others would probably be injured or dead right now.

*Edited: I edited the paragraph above. I want to make it very, very clear that I applaud the school, the principals of both schools, the teachers and especially the bus drivers for getting those kids out of there and protecting the ones that were still there or had to return. If you’re an educator, you know that the school does not make the decision about when or if to dismiss. That usually comes at the district level. The administration of Henryville are heroes in my opinion and deserve to be treated as such. Yes, it was close on her making it home. No, it was not the school’s fault, in my opinion.

Caitlin made it home about 10 minutes before what you see in the photo above went past our neighborhood. My husband took that photo from the front porch of our house. As you can imagine, this is one time I did not chastise her for speeding like I normally would.

The school is completely destroyed. The images you see on TV don’t even touch the scope of it. Today, I read a blog post by one of Caitlin’s (my high school senior) teachers. He rode out the storm inside the school and explains where the kids normally go during a tornado drill and how many would have been injured or killed had they been inside that school. It hit me how close we came to losing Caitlin and many others that we care about.

The picture above shows how close it went past us. The sound was loud. It does sound like a train, only different. I grew up with a train passing my house twice a day. The sound is similar, but louder and with an added rumble. Then, the hail followed it. Huge, tennis ball size hail that sounded like it was coming through the roof. Sometime during the midst of all this, our phones and power went out.

I had time to get out one text message and I sent that to one of my closest friends. “Tornado headed straight for Henryville. Take cover now!” Cell service went to emergency only and I didn’t know if it even went through.

Once the storms had passed, we tried to call friends, but there was no communication. We listened to the radio and heard Henryville had been hit hard. We tried to head up and make sure our friends were okay or see if they needed help, we couldn’t get through. There was nothing left to do but return home and wait and listen to the radio.

My husband remembered a small generator and we were able to get the TV and some lights on. The images weren’t what we wanted to see and only worried us more. With no way to find out if our friends were okay, we all just waited. Later that evening, we took the back way and went up through Memphis, Indiana and down to Clarksville to get some dinner and try to get cell phone service. Even down there, it was slow and intermittent, but we were finally able to get in touch with all our friends and find out everyone was alive and safe.

Although the town is devastated…

Although our daughter is uncertain about senior trip, prom, graduation and finishing the yearbook she is editor of…

Although the school is gone…

The most important thing remains. Those we love are alive. Everything else is truly just stuff. It’s a shame that it takes something so major to remind you of what is most important, but there is something about tragedy that puts life into perspective.

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People have messaged me and asked what they can do to help. Right now, pray for the town. I thank the Lord for protecting my home and my family and friends. Everything else is replaceable.


Update: The 2012 Henryville Hornet’s Nest yearbook won the Hoosier Star award. This means it was judged to be the best yearbook in the entire state of Indiana in its division. It is the first time the school ever won the award. I am so proud of my daughter, Caitlin, and the staff who worked on this yearbook. The award was well deserved. They went to another school to work on it while others were out of school because of the damage the school suffered during the tornado. They put in tons of extra time to bring it in on schedule. They truly deserved this award both for their stellar work and their dedication. Congrats 2012 Henryville HS yearbook staff!

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Crabby Housewife

Crabby Housewife

Lori is a full-time housewife and writer, living in the Midwest with her husband of 27 years - they have two daughters. They have a house full of pets and her house is never quite perfect.