You're only given a little spark of madness. You mustn't lose it. Robin Williams

Location: Kentucky, United States

Monday, October 27, 2003

Real Life

It seems that a few people who read my last little writing exercise thought it was real life. It’s not, but where it comes from is interesting enough for a post or two.

My Grandmother, who’s name was Sarah, lived through a tornado that destroyed her family home when she was a little girl. From that point on she was always terrified of any storm. I remember many nights being awakened by my parents to be taken into our basement because my grandmother was afraid the thunderstorm passing through might develop into a tornado. My grandparents, who lived next door, had their own basement, but Mama wanted us all together.

I have never been afraid of storms, in fact to me they have always been, “God, putting on a show.” Although I realize this is reckless, I enjoy walking in the rain during thunderstorms, splashing in the puddles, listening to the music of running water, falling rain, and thunder. Consequently, I strayed from the basement on occasion to play upstairs.

One such time was April 3rd, 1974. I was fourteen. A tornado warning had been announced on the local television station. My grandparents came over and everyone went into the basement, but despite my grandmothers objections I went back upstairs after a few minutes to practice piano. My mother joined me in the living room, looking out the window at the storm. Suddenly she opened the front door and went out onto the porch and hollered for me. I went outside and looked down the road where she was pointing into the sky. There was this huge funnel cloud moving rapidly along the tree line. It hadn’t touched down at this point, and wouldn’t for several more miles, but that is something we would not learn until later. Then the thing that most stands out in my mind. Mom said, “look over there!” pointing back where the funnel cloud had been you could see rain falling, but it curved like an upside down rainbow and disappeared back up into the cloud! Rain falling that never touched the ground.

After the storm had past I went outside to climb the oak tree behind my grandparents house, but ended up lying in the yard, awestruck at the towering cumulonimbus clouds climbing higher than I had eve seen them before, shining brilliantly in the sunshine. I have never seen clouds that big, or beautiful since. That beauty had a price though, but we really didn’t learn of it until the next day.

April 3-4, 1974, marks one of the worst tornado outbreaks in United States history. During that period 148 tornadoes were reported. Of the 148 tornadoes, nation wide, 27 touched down in Kentucky. The only F5 tornado ever recorded in Kentucky touched down around 3:30 pm that day, about 5 miles southwest of Hardinsburg in Breckinridge County. It struck Brandenburg, killing 31, injuring 257, and destroying or severely damaging 300-400 homes. The 27 tornadoes that touched down in Kentucky on April 3rd left 75 deaths, 1264 injuries, and over 110 million dollars in damages.
That was the funnel Mom and I watched from our front porch.

It passed less than a couple miles from our house.

Brandenburg: April 3rd, 1974


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