Blink—And They're Grown

Parents, Families and Child Care

Through the Eye of the Tornado


Ooh, child, things are gonna get easier,
Ooh, child, things’ll get brighter.

State Farm hit the nail on the head when they chose to use the moving lyrics from this ’70s hit for their new commercial. As the song plays in the background of heart-wrenching scenes depicting the havoc tornados have wreaked this spring, I’m moved to tears.

Their marketing department is genius. This commercial has replaced the hilarious “Mayhem” ones. Like when the guy in the business suit perches in a tree going, “Shaky, shaky, shaky,” as he shakes a branch causing it to fall through a car with him still attached. Airing those in light of the recent devastation would be insensitive to the nth degree. Instead, they’ve pulled “Mayhem,” at least temporarily, and play on viewers’ heartstrings by showing agency workers amidst tornado rubble handing out coffee, teddy bears and hugs. The familiar, reassuring voice of the distinguished “Are you in good hands?” gentleman lets us know they’re doing their part to help families and children take “a step toward normal”. Brilliant.

Since I’m a nester and love gathering feathers to create a haven for my family, I’ve wondered what I would do if I lost what these people have. Stories of people who’ve lost all their earthly possessions but say they’re O.K. because their loved ones are alright put things into perspective. In light of their circumstances, suddenly replacing those mismatched plates doesn’t seem like a necessity. I’m just grateful to have something to eat off of, not to mention to eat, period.

Families who’ve survived the tornados are taking small steps toward normal, but what about those who have lost loved ones, their children in particular? Prior to my cousin dying at a young age, I’d never given it much thought, but watching my uncle and aunt grieve, it struck me that it’s not normal for a parent to bury their child. It goes against the natural order of things. Children (hopefully adult) are supposed to bury their parents, not the other way around.

A few weeks ago, I experienced a tiny inkling of the terror a tornado strikes in a parent’s heart. While heading home, I remembered my daughter needed a Lunchable for the next day. I’d pop into Kroger. Watching the sky darken ominously, I dreaded the thought of getting caught in a downpour but couldn’t avoid stopping.

Once inside, the commotion confused me. An announcement came over the loudspeaker, but I couldn’t understand it. As I headed toward the lunch meats, an employee yelled “Get in the freezer!” My shocked response was, “I don’t know where the freezer is…” The frazzled woman informed me we were under tornado warning and herded me in.

Sitting on a box of meat wearing stilettos, a pencil skirt and two butcher’s jackets, I attempted to call my family. Fifty others did the same. My Blackberry didn’t have reception, so someone offered me their phone. Others offered theirs to whoever needed them. I didn’t hear “Make sure the Wii is O.K.” or “Wrap the crystal.” Instead, I heard “Are you and the kids in the basement?” and “Kiss them for me.” Invariably the one in the locker said, “I love you,” to the one on the other end.

It wasn’t Joplin, but the touchdown in our neighborhood spun us all for a loop. Though perfect strangers, we saw the same thing through the eye of the tornado: It’s not about prized possessions, but prized people.

– Tammi

Photo courtesy of Barry Lenard.

2 thoughts on “Through the Eye of the Tornado

  1. Thank you for sharing this poignant experience. Your writing grabbed me and I was pulled right into the walk-in box with you!

  2. Karen, I appreciate you sharing. The experience was a frightening one, but I’m glad to have lived through it and to have been reminded what is of true value.