Running from Last Night’s Tornado

My friend Laura and I were on a fast paced walk through the forest preserve last night when we heard the first tornado siren. We quickly checked our location and found that we were 2.5 miles from our cars. It only took one look at each other and we were walking at a breakneck pace in the direction of the parking lot.

The conversation quickly turned to what we should do if the tornado hit while we were in the forest. Once we agreed on the plan, Laura asked if I was interested in running. The conversation stopped and our legs stretched forward at twice the speed.

We were making record time from any 5K we’d run together, but the additional speed was taking its toll on Laura’s injured knee from her last race. She shouted out that she had to stop.

My mind reeled with a question that I didn’t think would ever pop into my mind, “Do I sprint back to safety and let Laura get back on her own or do I stop?” Before the question had finished running through my mind, I realized that I had already stopped and turned to help her.

Laura looked at me and said, “Thank you.”

I found it interesting that I would have a survivor type question pop into my head, while I was in the middle of doing what was right for a friend. I couldn’t help but wonder how many other questions I’ve pondered that were based on natural instincts or survival, rather than being the right humane thing to do.

It didn’t take long for me to realize how powerful of a gift it is to lay down ones life for a friend. No wonder God did that with His son. He is truly the best friend anyone could have. So why don’t more desire to get to know Him?

My thoughts were interrupted when another tornado siren went off, but this time much closer to where we were. Laura asked if we should run again and I firmly said, “No, not yet. You need some recovery time.” We continued to walk quickly through the very dark canopy of trees.

Once we made it closer to a clearing and could see the mounting storm clouds approaching, we both picked up our pace into a light jog – then a quick run. Unfortunately we couldn’t maintain the speed past a half-mile with Laura’s injury screaming for ice. We slowed back to a fast walk.

A sudden blast from a nearby siren jolted us. It was ear piercing and a sign that we only had a half-mile left to go. We maintained our steady walk and I tried to comfort Laura in clarifying our position. Then another siren went off and another. It was clear that tornados were sighted in our area and we only had a couple minutes left until impact.

I silently prayed for God’s hand to hold back the storm and continued forward. A calm came and the trees stopped blowing. We looked at each other knowing fully well that the calm always comes before the blast of a storm.

The cars were in sight and we drove off in opposite directions, but not until after Laura asked what she should do if she sees a tornado while in the car. Heading down the street at faster speeds than posted, I wondered if I could make it home or if I’d have to get out of the car and find a gully or street sewer to hide in.

My phone rang and it was Laura sharing how she could see massive black clouds off to her left. “Her left?” I turned around and saw a twister forming over my right shoulder. It was moving in my exact direction. I said a quick prayer for our safety and told her that I had to hang up.

My foot hit the accelerator and I quickly calculated my 55 mph speed against a tornados 70+ mph speed and assessed if I’d have to get out of the car or if I could make it home. The stoplight turned red and I cut my wheels sharply to the right, cutting across the gas station and out the other side.

I put the metal to the floor and headed down a side street hoping that my outrageous speed would not cause me or anyone else harm. The town tornado siren went off, followed by the two surrounding town sirens. I looked in my rearview mirror and the tail was dipping down toward the ground.

The tornado was catching up with me, but I cut the wheel hard and took a left on two wheels, wondering if my speed or the tornado was lifting my car. I spun around the block and wondered if I should take time to back into my driveway or just pull in and get into the house. I had no idea why my thoughts were considering being presumptuous on God while I parked my car in a preferred manner. It was a ridiculous thought.

I pulled in straight forward and hopped out of my car. The siren a block away was so loud and nerve racking that I could barely find the right key. I unlocked the door and stepped inside. I could hear what sounded like a train going over my house and I looked outside. The trees were bent way over to the point were I thought they would snap.

The black swirl under the puke green sky dissipated before it touched down. Within two minutes it was over and followed by a deluge of rain. I was home and thankful. Then power went out and I decided to head to bed early.

It took ComEd over five hours to return our block to power, but thankfully I woke up to a beautiful sunny day with a light breeze. The excitement was over and I sighed. Trying to out run a tornado was very invigorating, but I think that I’ll pass up the next opportunity that might want to come my way.

Copyright © 2011 By CJ Powers
Photo © Chris White –

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