Here in Wisconsin (and maybe other states), every April, we have “Severe Weather Awareness Week“. The statewide Tornado Drill is tomorrow. Monday, NBC 15’s beloved weather man, Charlie Shortino, spoke about lightning strikes. Tuesday was Severe Thunderstorms, today: tornadoes.
As a child, I dreaded this week. The sound of tornado sirens was cause for the blood to drain from my already Pillsbury-Dough-Girl-white face, my stomach to twist in knots, bile to flood my digestive system and leaving me wishing for a private bathroom.
Tornado drills in grade school involved us children being corralled into the stairwell leading down to the lunchroom. Hurried and hushed, we were told lineup with our backs to the wall, sit on the floor with our feet together and hands covering the backs of our necks as we tucked our heads between our knees. We weren’t allowed to talk and any giggling was promptly ended by nuns or non-nun-teachers alike.
I felt sick. My head hurt, and the panic I felt rise I forced down into the pit of my stomach where it sat like an immovable, heavy stone.
“This has been a test of the Emergency Broadcast System. This was only a test. If this were a real emergency….”
But, in my head, it may as well have been a real emergency. The urgency to “save my life” was instilled upon me as I huddled there in the hallway next to the lunchroom (and later on in the stairwell leading down to the lunchroom). In Middle School, we were herded down the stairs and into the hallways away from the main, glass doors so we were protected from flying shards of glass. In High School, inevitably, the drills were run during band class and we made our way to the nearest shelter, the boys locker room.
It was easier in High School, nervous laughter spreading among the students somehow lessened the panic I felt. I imagine these drills caused the same fear in my generation that those who came before dealt with for Air Raids as they huddled beneath their desks. This year, I was listening to some TV show where a teacher was talking about how they knew having the kids huddle under their desks was useless and not really going to “save” them if there were, in fact, an air raid – but it gave them something “solid” to do and to focus on instead of panic.
I panicked. It was a controlled panic, but as I huddled there, my chilled fingers clamped over my neck, as I was made to cower in the hallway or stairwell, I envisioned how I could survive if the school came tumbling down around me. I had no real knowledge of Physics at that time, but I knew that if I made myself very small and tucked into the spot where the wall met the floor – I had a good chance of survival. To me, that was something I could hold on to – knowing where I was truly going to be safe – curiously, I always tried to get as close to a corner as I could. I would eyeball the other students, mentally tallying which ones were going to be killed by falling debris, who would lose a leg because they didn’t have it tucked up tight against them, the others who would suffer collateral damage.
Even now, that immovable, heavy stone still shows up when the sirens go off and I launch into action, grabbing my phone, my satchel with my identification and medication, cramming cats into a carrier and snapping a leash on the dog who is going blind and deaf but still knows that “something is wrong”. The half a dozen times we’ve had to hit our basement due to tornado warnings, I can cram Mr. Muse, myself, our two cats and the dog in a small corner of our basement with a blanket taught over the top of us, confident that we’ll survive. I was prepared.
The fear that was unleashed in me by tornado sirens had another curious effect, I prefer corners. Corners are the “safe zone”, they are my favorite places in restaurants or bars when out – always facing the door (if I can) so I can look danger in the face. First place to look for me when out – in a corner. I prefer tucking myself into the corner of the couch in a little ball than to be spread out. Even my desk in the office is a small little corner, where I wedge myself between Mr. Muse’s train layout and a small, folding table where I place my extra papers.
Thankfully, so far this week there has been no severe weather. Monday, I woke to see the world blanketed in a thick, ethereal fog. Fog isn’t unusual here in the river valley, even in winter, Black Earth Creek causes “frozen fog” with it’s spring-fed waters. I drove into work separate from Mr. Muse and armed with my 30D, I snapped some images as I drove along. These were all taken Monday, April 15th at about 6:30 AM.