Saturday, March 3, 2012

In A Heartbeat

I think we've all heard about how our lives can change in a heartbeat. Literally. Yesterday morning my alarm went off at 4:48 as normal, only I lingered a few minutes in bed next to my sleeping baby.

Normally I'm a little agitated if I wake up next to him because it means that he had another rough night, but not yesterday. I listened to him peacefully breathe, and I asked God to bring all of us back together safely under one roof later that night.

You see, I already knew a storm was brewing, a historic storm, a once in a lifetime storm. For days the National Weather Service had warned of a tornado threat, so I was nervous about what the day would hold. In fact, on my drive to work I prayed for the people who would be forever changed that day. I prayed the whole way in that morning, and I'm not sure that I ever stopped.

That's because this was the scene on our warnings map when I made it to the station, colors I had never scene before. There were numbers, readings, and discussions that are reserved for text books, not real life. Except this was real, and hour by hour that reality became more frightening.

Our weekend meteorologist arrived shortly after me that morning and we went to work preparing for what was to come. I of course had the show, scheduled interviews, emails, and even a school visit.

There were also things out of the norm, things that left that sick feeling in the bottom of your stomach. There was a lot of correspondence with our Chief Meteorologist who was out of town. There was a conference call with the National Weather Service, a tour of our station's "safe spot" and a plan put into action.

Other coworkers began filing out the building around noon heading home to their families, while Emily and I stayed behind to prepare for the storm. I eventually went home to get our family survival kit, pick up the dog, and get Eli. We, along with Eric made it back to the studio and had only minutes before it was time for me to go on air while my family and a few other co-workers awaited the storm in a safe place.

For three straight hours warning after warning came down for our viewing area. There were reports of hail damage, wind damage and even some funnel clouds, but by the grace of God we seemed to dodge a large bullet.

As we were going off the air, word came in of a possible tornado in Indiana but that was it. I, like the rest of Bowling Green, went about my normal business getting dinner, preparing for my parents and even blogging.

It wasn't until this morning that the magnitude of yesterday's storms really hit me.
This picture was taken in Henryville, Indiana where an EF4 tornado ripped through the town.
To give you perspective, that's less than two hours away.
It's also covered by The National Weather Service out of Louisville. The same office that releases watches and warning for our area.
For me, that's too close for comfort. It could so easily have been us.
This picture was taken in Eastern Kentucky in the city of West Liberty.
Under "normal" circumstances the Appalachian Mountains serve as a natural barrier protecting many towns from tornadoes. Only this wasn't a normal storm.
Families were effected in unimaginable ways by a rare EF3 tornado.
The devestation cuts me to the core. My hearts breaks for these people who will spend weeks sifting through the ashes, months rebuilding and a lifetime remembering that day that changes their lives.

In all 39 people across five states lost their lives yesterday. Families lost their homes. There are moms and dad, brothers and sisters, families and friends forever changed, and it all happened in a heartbeat.

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