Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Mother Nature was pissed off

Yesterday was a weird day, weather-wise. We had strong winds and it was very warm, unseasonably so- like about 80 degrees at 7:30 am. We had wind advisories and we were under a tornado warning. People were talking about it all morning, it was all over the weather, and we giggled over it when the radio DJs made fun of it on the radio on the way to work. I live in the Midwest where we have "tornado watches" as often as people need air to breathe- yes, all the time. Tornadoes didn't always happen but we sure were warned all the time. Hell, in my hometown, if the wind blows hard, the town sirens tornado sirens go off. Yes, it's become the town joke. Until today. About 9:30 am, something weird, something a little scary happened.

The school secretary came over the PA system and announced that we were supposed to take our students to our "tornado stations." They did not use the tornado alarm like we have for a drill. instead she came over and in a very shaky voice, told us to get there and, basically in not so many words, to be quick about it. In my school system, if we're having a tornado or fire drill, the faculty and staff get an email in advance. There was no email. Shit.

We have to take kids to interior rooms (no windows, no outside walls) and sit in "duck and cover" positions. So I'm there with my classroom teacher and 29 seventh graders. We're also joined by 23 HS students and their teacher who are taking Spanish- Mac happened to be in that class. I was in lock down with all those kids and Mac, thankfully.

We're all sitting on the floor, waiting. At first the kids were quiet and just looking at us and asking us lots of questions. Then they started laughing and talking. The principal came in and talked to one of the teachers in our room and when she came in , the three adults conferenced. This was NOT a drill, the teachers were quietly told. The kids are all sitting on the floor, all the way around the perimeter of the room. The lights are on dim and we finally turned a movie on, to settle them. After about an hour of listening to it storm and howl, and trying to show a movie, the power goes out.

Here we are with all these kids, in a completely dark room- the emergency lights did NOT come on. Black as pitch. I had 7th grade girls locked onto my legs and arms, some girls in the room were quietly crying and otherwise, it was dead silent. Mac quietly says above the din, "Mom, are you okay?" And I say yes, which seemed to make other kids cry. Finally I got my cell phone out of my pocket and flipped it on. Yes, I broke the damn cell rules but in a room that is totally black, with crying kids, about 52 freaked out kids, I didn't care. The teachers in the room actually told anyone who had a phone could take it out and shine the light. One of the 7th graders asked if the First Aid kits had flashlights and lo and behold, it did! (Good thinkin' 7th grader!) A science teacher opened the classroom door and handed in a candle. Then the wind really picked up.

Some kids were crying again but otherwise it was quiet IN the room. The weather was thundering, lightening, blowing like never before. Then it just became quiet. very quiet, inside and out. For anyone who has ever been in a school building during the day, it's never quiet. There's always "noise" of some kind. This was especially eerie because we had a building full of 600+ kids and faculty and it was silent- dead silent.

Finally we get an all clear. The principals came door to door to tell us. Because we still had no power, the two classes were to stay together and we were released to room with windows. It seemed the "tornado danger" was over. We all get into a room and are looking out the windows and we had lots of downed trees and branches but still no power. It's now about 11:15 a.m.

What do you do to break the tension of all the kids who had been locked up for about 2 hours, mostly sitting on the floor in fear, in the dark? With no air conditioning (teenagers are smelly but add them packed in like sardines and then the smell of fear... well, it was gross!)? Well, sing of course. Mac is giving me a huge hug and I could tell he was just freaked out. I started singing quietly in his ear, "sing, sing a song, make it simple, let the world sing along, sing of happy not sad, sing of good things, not bad." He started giggling.

Then he had AN IDEA! The upperclassmen, led by MY SON started a sing along and got the kids singing and dancing; it was a mini concert. Mac did a Journey song, "Don't Stop Believing", "I'm Yours" and "Hey There Delilah" by Jason Mraz, as well as "My Girl" by the Temptations.. We were having such a good time, two other classes came in with ours and started singing and clapping. Mac took all the solos... he is such a character. He cracks me up as well as everyone else, for that matter.

The long and the short of this tale is that we had an early release at 12:30pm. Yahoo for a half day!!!! (I HATE this job so anything that gets me out is GOOD!) It's hard to believe that happened early in the day because by 3pm it was sunny and clear with a light breeze. And dropped about 25 degrees- it was about 55!!!!!! We didn't blow away but the building had some rain damage and some wind damage, I guess.

I was so very impressed with the kids. It was utter and total chaos with lots of fear and they held it together. When it was over and done and the school was trying to get lunch organized, and buses and early dismissals and crazy scared parents, the kids were awesome and behaved and did what they were supposed to do. I was really proud of the kids.

And in the community, apparently, Wal-Mart here in town was hit by the tornado, as was the local Kroger grocery store. Furthermore, about 1/2 of the county was without power and all the fast food places and schools and a bunch of businesses had to close for the rest of the day. The hospital had people in the basement and it was just a mess. It will be interesting to see the newspaper today to see the rest of the fall out.



Curley said...

Not only did we loose power, we lost phones so couldn't even call to see if hunter boy and computer guy were ok. Wasn't bad at the house.

Jimmie Earl said...

"Sing, sing a song," Boy! does that bring back memories! I remember singing that to you when you were upset. Great story and greater outcome. It could have been so much worse!


food for thought said...

what a harrowing day... i could never handle those kinds of storms, i would be whimpering mass of jelly with every cloud passing by... i am glad you all came out ok, and i pray no one else was hurt in your town. scary is all i can say, beyond my scope of comprehension, nature is terrifying :( but sounds like you got the makings for a great glee club~

sam said...

Maggie Mae,

Sooo glad that everyone is okay! Must have been hot and scary. Glad Mac was there to entertain.

I am terrified of tornados. My first year in GCS one came up within a mile of my house. Put the bird in the closet and I waited. Fear of the unknown. I always thought that they swept through in minutes.

Will take a hurrican any day. You have time to plan, watch what it is doing and can go from there. One year we got hit, it moved on, and then turned around and hit us again! That was a first.

What are you doing Thanksgiving?


Maggie said...

Curley- glad the guys were good! Wasn't it weird?

JE- it could've been lots worse. We wondered, as teachers, what would've happened had the roof blown off or something. Terrible.

And ya gotta love "Sesame Street".

Jain (food for thought)- as far as the local news says, no one was hurt, just damage to buildings. It was scary and almost surreal. I hope to never have to do anything like this again. The kids were talking today that it would be their biggest high school memory.

sam/ Patti- I wish there was a way to pinpoint these rather than just waiting. I wouldn't want a hurricane, either. I would rather avoid all natural disasters. All scary.

And I don't have Thanksgiving plans yet. Got an idea? ;)

booknut said...

It was scary for me, too. At home alone with both kids when the tornado hit not far from my house. Just can't believe that no one except my husband and aunt called to make sure the kids and I were ok. I could actually hear it from the bathroom, where I was hiding with the kids. Very scary. Glad no one was hurt.