I watched our television set in horror Tuesday, as semi-tractor trailers were being tossed about like matchbox toys, as the news anchor reported that yet another tornado touched down in the Metroplex area. By days end, up to thirteen twisters were spawned from violent storm system that mercilessly made its way across North Texas.
At the same time, on the other end of the phone with me, watching the same horror unfold, was my friend Dorothy. I’d like to say she had a sixth sense, and instinctively knew that I needed her calm, experienced presence as I sat there alone and terrified, but I am pretty sure she saw my frantic status updates on Facebook. I had stepped outside a few minutes prior to take a picture of the incoming clouds, when I heard tornado sirens in the distance. I bolted inside, locked the door, turned on the television and updated my status. That sequence was sum of everything I knew, or rather didn’t know about safety during a tornado warning.
Thankfully, my friend helped steady my nerves, even though the storms ferocity was much closer to her in Euless, than it was to me in the Cultural District of Forth Worth. The Arlington funnel cloud was headed her way, and yet she was there to calm my nerves. She is an amazing friend. She told me where I needed to go to be safe, and what I needed to do — covering myself with cushions or the futon mattress, not to go under furniture, move to the inner area of the house, away from windows. For two hours she held my hand, through that telephone wire until the last warning for my area had faded.
As a transplanted Northerner, I often watch in amazement at how nonchalant the average Texan is, when the possibility of severe storms are forecast. They’ll raid the stores when a skiff of snow is predicted but they seem to take the Spring storm warnings in-stride. I admit, much to the chagrin of my friends, take the warnings seriously. So much so that my partner had to take two days off of work during the last predicted storms, to help ease my fears. Fears, that in reality, turned out to be unwarranted, as the storms greatest threat was an abundance of rain, absent of any tornadic activity. This past Tuesday morning, I assured him, with my bravest face, I’d be fine. This time however, the weathermen had been spot on.
Now, in the aftermath of Tuesday’s storms, people are aiming to pick up the pieces of their shattered homes, businesses, communities and lives. The latest storm reminded me of photographs my partner had shown me of a storm that did come a little closer to our home.
I wasn’t here that fateful day, March 28th of 2000. I most likely was somewhere very much north of here dealing with a skiff of snow, but in Fort Worth the sky turned a pea soup green color around dinner time as a tornado ripped through its downtown area. The destruction was massive. Homes disappeared completely, and others that remained were without walls, windows and roofs. Skyscrapers had their windows blown out, and pieces of metal were twisted as if they were simply thin wires, rather than thick pieces of steel. My partner shared the pictures he took as he walked around the area he called home, a mere twenty four hours after the storm had ravaged the city. It looked like a war zone, just as our neighbor’s communities must look in to them today.
It’s been 12 years now since that fateful day in Fort Worth. Other than the memories it seared into the brains of those who lived in Fort Worth at that time, the post tangible evidence of the storm is a makeshift piece of art, a set of four steel posts, bent to an 90 degrees by the relentless wind force. They had once held up a billboard sign, but have been moved a few feet over, and stand in front of the Arlington Heights post office serving as a constant reminder of just how powerful the storms can be here.
After the winds died down in late March of 2000, the bulldozers moved in. New condos went up in the place of buildings that had been destroyed. Other buildings were repaired and on the lower economic end of the scale, the lots were simply left empty, or homes boarded up, still standing empty a decade later – which, I suppose, in the end, is probably the most poignant reminder of losses left in the wake of that historic storm.
Although this past Tuesday may have been the weather’s time to rage, Wednesday and every day thereafter, it is our time to shine. Let us not forget those who will need a hand up to recover from Tuesday’s tornadoes, until the work is done. They will need help piecing together their lives, rebuilding their homes and restoring their faith. There are many ways to help. Here are a couple of links that have been circulating to give you a starting point.
Remembering the Storm of March 28 2012 – Fort Worth, Texas
photos by Brian Roper