(Note: I’d like to apologize for how disjointed this post is… I’ve been trying to write it for at least a week, and the more I wrote, the more I tried to polish it, well, it lost something. It was a very emotional night for me, and in the end just getting my words out was more important than keeping the paragraphs flowing. — Epijunky)
I’ve written before about EMS and how close us folks can be. How we’ll go to war for each other if need be. How if you mess with one of us, chances are you won’t like the end result. If there’s one thing I can say without a degree of doubt it’s that we are a tight group. I’m going somewhere with this, I promise.
You might have heard about some nasty weather that steam-rolled it’s way through my neck of the woods a little more than a week ago.
An F-4 tornado.
I had just gotten home from some clinical time in the ER when I switched the tv on and realized that every channel was showing the weather. It was going to get nasty, they said. Hail, heavy rain, high winds, they said.
What did I do?
Honestly? I cracked open a beer. It was a warm night, and it had been a long day. Hey, I had just started an IV in a thumb and had seen the most grotesque traumatic injury that my sparky green backside could conceive. I was feeling pretty happy to be home. It was already after 9pm, and the plan for the night was an early bedtime.
Half an hour or so later I heard the sirens go off. As the kids started to panic, I switched on the TV. Tornado Watch. It’s not a huge deal up here, as we find ourselves under a watch at least twice a summer. I had FC come downstairs and play in his sister’s room, which didn’t make him a very happy ten-year-old. I left the tv on, but muted and went back to playing some mindless game online.
The siren in my area is just about a block from my house, so when it does go off, there is no missing it. It vibrates the entire house. When that shrill whine started up again, SWR did what any five-year-old girl with a fear of bad weather does, she panicked. FC, for his part, paced, a worry wrinkle crossing his forehead. Every hair on my body stood on end. Hearing a siren twice within half an hour was not a good thing. I turned my attention back to the news, where we informed that were now under a tornado warning. I managed to get the kids settled down and returned to watching the breaking coverage of this “weather event” as the meteorologist referred to it.
The projected path of the storm was south of me, but not by very much. Where it was hitting right now, according to the local news affiliates, would be the rural area where my instructor lives. It would then move directly upon an area where a lot of folks I care about work. Too close for comfort to where a co-worker and classmate live (Rockstar Partner, actually). Very close to where a good friend of mine was out celebrating at a Bachelor Party. My Dad’s house was directly in the path. My Dad. My people. So many I cared about were directly in it’s path.
I quickly went from being calm and collected to… well… Not so very calm. Every time I spoke to my little ones, my voice was at least an octave higher than it should have been. I was afraid, but not for the reasons that I used to be. I had always been a little skiddish as a kid when the sirens would go off. Now, I knew I was safe. My kids were safe. I wasn’t worried for us. The more I watched the television, the more nervous I became.
Before I knew it all hell was breaking loose. We had confirmation of a touch down in the township. The highschool was destroyed. The police station was destroyed. The EMS station where so many of my friends work or had worked in the past was destroyed. I started sending frantic text messages. I made phone calls that went unanswered. I cried, and I prayed, and I prayed some more. There were family members that were in danger. There were coworkers, classmates and very good friends in danger. And if on cue, I was cut off. My cell phone went from four bars to zero. No coverage. I was cut off.
I couldn’t help but imagine the worst possible scenario. With no way to communicate by phone, I attempted to go to bed with the kids. I was not rewarded with sleep.
At the second that I was freaking out the most… the ones I was so worried about? They were springing into action. In the pitch black dark of night, backboards were replaced with doors and plywood. Flashlights were searching for victims. Folks were pulling people from the rubble. Ditches and culverts were being checked. The ones that weren’t in the immediate area were moving in resources to an area that basically had all of their emergency services knocked out. The outpouring of help from so many of the neighboring communities, just amazing. We truly are a family. When one of our own needs help… We do everything we can. I know people who have given up just about ever waking second of their free time helping out in that area. They’re still doing it a week and a half later, with no plans to stop until there is no longer a need.
I am honored to know them. I’m humbled that I’m able to call them my friends, and I’m so proud of the work that they did under such horrible conditions.