Those are the words my mind tricked me into believing were true. I heard a fireman say something that sounded like that on the night of May 25th, the night a EF1 tornado touched down very close to my home.
My wife, a person who is always concerned with the weather told me that the night was going to be a rough one. I hear this on a fairly common basis, but something told me that I should stay on alert that night. She had radar from WRTV 6 up on her computer, and we had a combination of the local weather and The Weather Channel on our TV the entire night.
I remember the exact moment when I knew we were going to be in for something. While watching the TV, they were showing all of the tornado warning/watches in Illinois. The state was covered in red; meaning the state was covered in tornado warnings.
Around 10:19pm our power went out, and almost instantly after that our weather radio went off; it was a tornado warning for us and we knew that this was serious. My wife headed for our basement and told me to grab Amelia from her crib if I thought it was appropriate. While I knew this was a serious situation, I had to see it for my own eyes. That’s when I picked up my flashlight and looked at the large maple tree in my backyard. It’s large canopy was swirling in a clockwise motion, something I had never seen before in that large of a tree.
I immediately ran to grab Amelia from her room and rushed to our utility room where Rachel was waiting. Even though I had experienced a similar event when I was 12, I had never felt the urgency or threat that I felt at that moment. It was the first time we had ‘ran for shelter’ from a storm. While in our utility room, we could hear the intensity of the storm. There was no sound like a train, rather the sound of a large volume of air moving at a high rate of speed. It went away after a minute or so, but we decided to stay in our safe place for a few minutes, just to be sure.
Immediately, I went outside to inspect for damage. The first thing I noticed was that a large limb from one of my trees had broken and fallen on my neighbor’s fence. I called him to let him know, and that was when my mental state took a dive that it hadn’t had in a very long time.
He told me that his daughter had called him and by listening to the scanner, she had heard that the trailer court right next to our neighborhood was completely wiped out. I felt a tremendous urge to go see what I could do to help. I got in the Kia and discovered that a war zone now existed less than 1/4 mile away from my home; I was also trapped in our neighborhood.
I discovered another one of my neighbors outside, I asked him what he knew. He said that there were several children trapped in one of the trailers. He told me that he offered his assistance, but they didn’t want anyone who wasn’t trained in search & rescue to help out of the fear that they might also be hurt.
I then heard those words that I couldn’t get out of my head, “the little girl is dead.” I had to run back home, I couldn’t help and I could barely hold my tears back.
Out of what seemed to be pure survival instinct, I started tweeting. Besides our land line, it was my only way of communicating with the outside world at that point. Here they are:
- I’m a prisoner in my own neighborhood and there are people dead less than 1/4 miles away from me
- Trailers stacked on top of trailers, it’s a sickening sight! If I only had a line to the outside world besides this
- I can’t sleep knowing that my poor neighbor children lost everything, almost their lives tonight. I also confirmed with the fd, no death …
- I now wish it would stay dark so I cannot see the remains of what was #didthisreallyhappen
- I’ve only lost a few trees, which I loved -I feel bad for mentioning it, but I think it should be noted.
- Please put the children who just lost everything in your thoughts and/or prayers. They really didn’t deserve this
- You never realize how much you appreciate freedom until that freedom is taken – quote me
I then went back and found a larger group of my neighbors. One of which had a friend over who is a policeman. We went back and actually did some searching with the fire department. I snapped some photos on my phone, but due to the atmospheric conditions, they didn’t turn out too well.
I went back home and told Rachel that I couldn’t go to sleep, and that I was going to leave as soon as I could. I felt disconnected from what was happening, I needed information. Around 3am, I started seeing headlights from cars driving around our neighborhood – the road must have been finally cleared. I packed up my laptop, phone and associated cables to charge everything and headed into the unknown. My destination was the IU Wells Library, but I wasn’t sure if I would make it. I had to try.
The journey is only about 6 miles, but it seemed like 50. The entire west side of Bloomington was pitch black. No stop lights or street lights. When I finally made it to campus it was even worse. Trees were down everywhere, what is normally a somewhat linear route ended up to be a criss cross puzzle.
I finally felt okay. I sat with some of my TCC co-workers and briefed them of the situation. I logged onto a computer and started my hunt for information. I printed every article I could find, from the Herald-Times, to the Indy Star to even MSNBC.
Once everything was charged, and my search for information was complete I headed back home. Little did I know that the drive home would be even more treacherous than the drive in.
Still no lights or businesses open. It was daylight now, I what I had feared was true; it had to have been a tornado that came through. While there were spots here and there in town and on campus that had tree damage, there was a defined path of destruction starting just west of Curry Pike/Leonard Springs Road on Highway 45. This defined path followed me on my journey home, and that’s when I encountered the sheriff’s deputy blocking the road to my home. “And where do you think you’re going?” he asked me. “Home” I passionately stated. He let me through.
The next day we left on a planned vacation to Michigan. We felt it would be better to leave the sadness and destruction, than to stay and be constantly reminded of it.
I’ll continue this tale in my next post.