I Sur­vived a Tor­nado

Reader's Digest International - - Bonus Read - BY CAROLYN BLANTON AS TOLD TO JULIANA LABIANCA

On the day the tor­nado hit, there was no in­di­ca­tion se­vere weather was on its way—the sky was blue and the sun had been out. The first alert my hus­band, Jimmy, 67, and I, 65, got came around 9 p.m., from some scrolling text on the TV Jimmy was watch­ing. He ran up­stairs to find me in our third­floor bed­room, and we changed the chan­nel from the pres­i­den­tial pri­mary de­bate I had been watch­ing to our lo­cal Pen­sacola, Florida, sta­tion.

No sooner had we found cov­er­age of the tor­nado than it was on top of us. It was the loud­est thing I have ever heard. The bones of the house shook, and the power went out. Pink in­su­la­tion flew into the room from a trap­door to the at­tic, and the wind be­gan to roar through the house, most likely through blown-out windows and the door to our garage.

We had three flights of steps to nav­i­gate to get to the rel­a­tive safety of the first floor. Be­cause the closet down there is wedged un­der­neath a brick stair­case, it seemed like the stur­di­est place in our town house to wait things out. I didn’t know how or if we would make it down the steps.

It felt as if there were no floor

un­der­neath me as the wind lifted me off my feet. I gripped the ban­is­ter and tried to move for­ward, but this in­tense pres­sure held me in place. In those sec­onds of prac­ti­cal still­ness, I could hear ev­ery­thing around me rat­tling. Ev­ery­thing was mov­ing.

As we reached the last flight of steps, our front door blew out. Shards of glass that looked like crushed ice flew ev­ery­where. Sud­denly, a three-foot-long tree branch whipped through the door­frame. It flew over our heads, miss­ing us by inches. Had we been one step up, it would have im­paled us.

We got close to the stair­case land­ing only to hear the loud rip­ping sound of our garage door com­ing off. The back wall of the house fol­lowed suit and tore off into the dark­ness out­side.

By the time I reached the closet, the tor­nado had been over us for about a minute. Jimmy pushed me down to the closet floor, but he couldn’t get inside him­self be­cause of the wind. I gripped Jimmy’s arm as the tor­nado sucked the door open—we never did get it fully shut—and tried to bring Jimmy with it.

My knees and scalp were full of glass, but in that mo­ment, I felt no pain. If I had let go, Jimmy would have flown right out the back of the house and into the bay.

“Hold on! Hold on!” he yelled. But there was noth­ing in this closet to hold on to. We use it to store Christ­mas dec­o­ra­tions.

All of a sud­den, Jimmy lifted off his feet like peo­ple in tor­na­does do in the movies. I thought he was gone. And then ev­ery­thing stopped. He landed on his feet. In those first quiet mo­ments, I couldn’t be­lieve it was over. Jimmy said he’d go out­side to check. “No,” I said. “Don’t leave me. Don’t leave me.”

Our neigh­bor says the storm lasted four min­utes. In that time, four of the twelve town houses in our unit were com­pletely de­stroyed. Of the houses left stand­ing, ours suf­fered the most dam­age. Amaz­ingly, none of us were se­verely in­jured.

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