Although tornado warnings were very much a part of my childhood I left all that behind me when I moved from Kansas at the age of eighteen. I made numerous visits back, though, and on one of them my three youngest children got to experience a true tornado warning. Fortunately, all ended well and the tornado became the highlight of the visit.
All began when my husband decided to go fishing with our thirteen-year-old-son and my father’s next door neighbor. The neighbor had a boat and a share in a lake east of town. It was a dream outing for my husband and son. Meanwhile I made dinner for my father, two daughters, and myself. After clean-up, the girls, aged seventeen and nine, decided to lie on the grass and find shapes in the clouds. It was a nice, peaceful activity until the tornado sirens went off. My girls had heard enough of my stories to know what those sirens meant. They came into the house terrified. I was also concerned but my father was the picture of calm.
He had the TV on the weather channel and assured us that the storm was on the west side of the city, far from us. Indeed, the sirens had stopped. That, along with my father’s attitude, placated the girls somewhat. And then, some fifteen minutes later, the siren sounded again. This time I agreed with my girls. It was time to go to the neighbor’s basement. My father did not agree but told us we could go if we wanted.
“We can’t go without you!” I declared. So, as a favor to me, my father slowly got ready to go with us. As he changed from his slippers to his shoes I started worrying about how my husband and son were faring.
They were having a grand time in the neighbor’s boat, catching fish after fish until the sky began to turn dark and threatening. My husband suggested that they head for shore but the neighbor was not impressed. “Those clouds are nothing,” he declared. It was only after my husband told him that our son was tired that he agreed to call it a day.
Just as my father took his time leaving the house for the basement, the neighbor took his time organizing the boat. They were the last fishermen to the leave the lake. On the drive home the storm hit with full force. There was thunder, lightening, and rain so thick it was hard to see to drive. Many cars parked under viaducts to wait out the storm but not the neighbor.
Back at home my father finally had his shoes tied, his raincoat and hat on, and was ready to go. My daughters could not wait to leave. They were so scared. As we left the house for the neighbor’s basement my older daughter turned to me.
“How can people live here?” she cried. “It’s so dangerous!”
Please note that this was in the year 2003. She had grown up in Shilo, Israel where many were afraid to visit for fear of terror attacks. It was at that point I learned an important lesson. Everyone gets used to their own dangers.
Once at the neighbors, my daughters and I went down to the basement by ourselves. My father and the neighbor’s wife stayed upstairs watching the weather station on TV. Their calmness was somewhat unnerving. Even a loud boom, caused by lightening felling a tree across the street, did not faze them.
And yet, my reactions to security alerts in Shilo were not that different. Since there was not much I personally could do to protect my community, besides saying some Tehillim, when they would occur at night I would often lock the doors and go to sleep.
Many who live in Kansas cannot fathom how I can make my home in Israel. They have their dangers and we have ours. However, I am living with my dangers in the Jewish homeland, where HaShem commanded me to live. That makes it all worthwhile.