January 12, 2009


Many years ago I woke up and I looked outside the bay windows of my kitchen. My dining room stares out on my back yard and it provides me with a view of the Wasatch Mountain range. It is usually my first connection with the outside world after I get up in the mornings. It was the middle of August and the year was 1999. And it was dark outside. It was early in the morning and the valley was covered in overcast and it looked like the dawn of winter.

Usually the summer months are pretty bright. I should have seen the sun beating down on the girls jungle gym, or heard my neighbor running his lawn mower or leaf blower. Instead it was violently windy, and the sky was gray and ominous. The sound of wind slapped the side of the house repeatedly. Seeing an overcast sky in the middle of August is somewhat unusual. I remember thinking to myself (by the pricking of my thumbs, something wicked this way comes) and that there was a big storm on its way. Perhaps Shakespeare's ghost was visiting me. It is conceivable that my shoulders jerked involuntarily as I looked outside and then went back to what I was doing.

Over the next couple of hours I would wander into the kitchen to top off my coffee cup, only to be drawn toward my sliding glass doors. Here I would take a moment to look up at the sky and mumble incoherently to myself: Should I, Could I, Would I? My answer was always the same. No. I will stay home. Little did I know, or any of us for that matter, that five miles away ground zero stirred busily as people ran about their business getting ready for an Outdoor Retailers Show. Nobody knew what was coming.

Normally this was the perfect day for me to wander into town. It was a Wednesday. I would grab a bite to eat and a show. From my home I would ride the bus into town. It would take me to 3rd West and South Temple. To a downtown parking lot that had been converted into an outdoor convention center. To Ground Zero. If I had chosen to go right then I would have seen this. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h0VB5905Ebg

Instead, I stayed home.
At 12:45 p.m. on August 11, 1999 an F-2 tornado whipped through downtown Salt Lake City and claimed the life of one man from Las Vegas, NV. Hundreds of people were injured. I was fortunate enough to not get on that bus so that I might get off. As it was I didn't even know it had happened.
My sister-in-law called me moments after it was over.

"Are you guys all right?"

"I'm fine!" I said.

"Is Lois all right?"

"Uh, I guess," I said, "Why?"

"They just had a tornado rip through downtown Salt Lake City. By her work! I can't reach her on her phone."

I turned on the T.V. and I watched the carnage unfold. I started making phone calls and I couldn't get any answers. Eventually my wife called me and the first thing I told her was,

"The next time you're in a tornado, or an earthquake or any other freaking disaster -- and if you're not hurt -- then you better call me."

I was so angry I hung up.

Years later I would think about that (today).
And I would wonder why I was so angry (grief stricken).
I remember her telling me how she was driving back to work and it was raining. She knew what was happening because it was on the radio (and she was in the middle of it).
At some point it stopped raining and all the water that was on the car disappeared (because it had been sucked off the car by the force of vacuum).

I was angry because I had been scared.

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