It seems like half an eternity ago, but surely it was less, that I received an alert on my phone. "Tornado warning in effect. Take shelter immediately." I, who have never darkened the door of a storm shelter before, herded the four nurses here into the biohazard room. I'm so very glad I did.
Now, I am enclosed in the safest place in our office building with four of our nurses. As we handed out blankets and settled ourselves on the floor, Cathy laughed and said, "We could sing Kumbaya..." We all laughed with her, but there was already a song playing in my head. You might know it.
"Jesus, Jesus, precious Jesus. How I've proved you o'er and o'er. Jesus, Jesus, precious Jesus. Oh for grace to trust you more."
I don't know who wrote it at the moment, but it has turned this little safe room into a sacred place.
I can see deep concern on the faces of these nurses I have grown to love so dearly, and maybe there is also a little fear. For lack of anything better to do, I began to tell about another time when I wasn't quite safe.
As I talked about that refining fire that I faced as a 21 year old girl on the border of Honduras and El Salvador, gunfire clearly audible around me, I explained that it was a defining moment in my life. I found there was solid rock inside me and I understood who I was at the deepest point. I do not have to be afraid because I know whose I am. Life is not about my stuff. I don't know what I said, or if it helped them, but it has helped to settle me.
We have laughed. We have prayed. We have text'd messages to those we love. We have taken phone calls from worried family members. I have started a blog post from our safe room.
Just as I wrote a letter to my family with final words from that village so long ago, I stop to text my son something he can remember. Just in case. "I love you," I write. That's not enough. Just in case, I send another message. "I'm counting on you to be the man God created you to be." I can't imagine what he thinks, but I do not know that we will leave this room alive.
A few minutes ago, we heard an eerie knocking. I went to investigate and found the front door open and banging back and forth. It is as black as night outside. The wind sucked the door out of my hand. It was a battle to close it, and I thought, "This is not good. Not good at all." I've locked all but one door, and as I headed back to our makeshift shelter, I hoped that someone could find us if the tornado hit here.
My sister has called to give up updates as she watches the weather reports. Her heart is broken as she recounts the path of the tornado through this big-hearted town. WTVA has sent their people to the safe room. They are in the path of the storm. They broadcast until the moment they didn't. Off the air. She doesn't know what has happened but that horridly loud sound, that deadly silence, the noise again make us think the worst. I'm afraid it is the worst.
At last, we emerge, a little shakily as we stand on legs that have been folded long enough to be numb. Cars are driving. The air is clear and still. Limbs and leaves are everywhere, but we are unharmed.
Safe. We are safe. What a lovely little word. I haven't appreciated it nearly enough, but I do now. There's another word I grew to love today. Spared. We were spared, and, though I have no idea what destruction the tornado has left behind, I know that being spared will make a lifetime of difference.
(There is extensive destruction. Reports are only now coming out. Prayers are needed. We do not yet know about injuries and deaths.)