Our summer home on the quiet Mobjack Bay inlet of the Chesapeake was a beautiful Victorian white clapboard on blocks to prevent flooding during storms. We usually left it unattended through the cold season, but if there was a chance for hurricanes, we would rush down and board up the windows.
One such September we went down to the house with only a skeleton crew of my father, brother, me, and my dad’s friend (for the extra strong arms to board up a few dozen windows). I was, as usual, relegated to handing them nails and bringing them sweet tea on the assembly line. My seven-year-old body could feel the barometric changes in the weather and knew something really big was about to happen.
And it was!
Dad went out in the afternoon to help out a friend and assist him with securing his own house, as well. Father’s friend, remained behind, taking a nap on the screened porch after all the hard work. My brother Scott and I decided to play board games. The house was always kept at a bare minimum and my parents wanted to promote creativity, so there was no TV or even a radio to warn us of what was to come.
Just after dark the winds began to howl horrible. The boards on the windows were rattling against the siding and it sounded as if the top of the house could pop off at any time. We were too distracted to play our games, so we pushed the board aside. Scott went to the kitchen for something to eat and I remained in the living room, pacing the floors, listening to the weather.
I wasn’t particularly scared of storms at that age. I hated losing electricity because I thought hurricane lamps were so scary, but my father had gotten me over the thunder sounds with stories of angels bowling and the very loud booms being that the angels just had a strike. I used to try to score in their game in my head to distract myself.
Not this night.
The pressure in my head was bothering me and the air felt thick and heavy and still inside the house. It was suffocating feeling being inside such still while outside it remained hyperdynamic.
I walked over to the window facing the street and stared out at a large board looking back at me. It rattled and I startled as I watched it bouncing wildly against the house.
Turning away and walking back to the Clue board game to put it away, I distinctly heard someone say “Look out the window.” I stood up and looked around. My brother was in the kitchen facing away from me spreading some peanut butter on bread. The voice had sounded like an adult whispering. Still, I had to ask.
“Hmm?” He called out over his shoulder.
“Did you just say something to me?”
“Nope.” He called back. “Probably the wind.”
I turned back to the window just as I heard a very distinct, very clear woman’s voice snap, “Now!”
I looked up just as the board sucked itself right off the siding and flew away into the night. I rushed to the window and held onto the sill, studying the shapes in the night to see something very dense, very thick, and very strangely light compared to the surroundings. My ears popped just as I heard a huge roaring, holding my breath, as I watched the trailer across the street tumble off its foundation and land on its roof as the roaring gray thing passed towards the dock.
“Scott!” I screamed.
My brother stood in the doorway to the living room, hands on hips. “What’s your problem? It’s just a loud storm.”
“No! The trailer!” I pointed.
“The windows are covered up. You can’t see anything.” He scoffed.
I actually rubbed my eyes and rechecked. Yup, I could see the trailer on its lid perhaps 50 feet from its foundation.
“T-the trailer!” I pointed, my mouth wide open.
Scott came up to the window with a heavy sigh of older brother's frustration and looked out.
He ran into the porch room and woke up our deeply sleeping guardian. Dad’s friend took Scott and they both rushed over to the trailer. I followed in the torrential winds, barely able to walk against it with my tiny frame. I was sobbing with fear as an molten pool of lightning made a strange ceiling in the sky, not reaching the ground, just crackling and sizzling above.
Dad’s friend yelled at me to get inside his camper truck away from the lightning. I hugged myself tightly against the cold rain and winds, looking back at the trailer and thinking it wasn’t such a good idea to get into a camper. I remained in the middle of the road, shivering, frightened beyond reason, and terrified for the folks inside the trailer. I knew they had a few children.
Dad’s friend and my brother broke their way into the trailer to climb in and help the residents. Other neighbors pulled their cars over and got out, helping to carry the bloodied people from the trailer. They were hurt, but they’d be okay.
When we settled into the house for the night after all the drama, I dried my hair with a fluffy towel and looked outside where the trailer remained askew.
“Dad says you saw a tornado.” My brother told me from the doorway.
“Really?” My mind didn’t fathom what a tornado was except that it took Dorothy to some psychedelic land away from her family. I was relieved the kids in the trailer weren’t taken away to Oz.
I was even more relieved that woman’s voice warned me. What if she hadn’t? What if through the sounds of the storm, we didn’t realize their trailer had been thrown? One of those people was bleeding pretty badly from the shattered glass…
“Thank you.” I whispered softly as I curled into my feather bed.