Anniversaries are a poignant thing. You reminisce about the the good and hopefully not too much about the bad. You remember the details like it was yesterday, and reflect on what has happened over time. This anniversary is a little different. It’s been 25 years since our home was “tornadoed”.
I grew up in Barrie, Ontario – far from Kansas and all those places you assume tornados hit. On May 31, 1985, our home was hit by debris from a tornado. Pieces of the racetrack or factories over a kilometre away were in our roof.
Our home was one of the ones up on the hill. We were lucky. We had plenty of broken windows and glass damage, a chunk out of the roof, a totalled car and downed trees. The house three doors down was gone. No one we know was seriously injured. My mom, sister and brother were home at the time, wisely sheltering in the basement. I was downtown, watching out the window of the library at the big thunderstorm and thinking the sky was unusually dark.
The hardest part of that day was not knowing. News came in the form of rumours from people at the bus station. There wasn’t any power, I couldn’t reach anyone by phone and I couldn’t go home. It’s funny how strong your homing instinct is when you are in a disaster. I finally saw my brother at the school down the street where he was helping with first aid. He sent word, via the ambulance drivers to my father who was a doctor at the hospital. It’s all a blur now but I know it was hours before I saw the rest of my family at my cousin’s place.
This disaster reshaped our lives. It sent us into the crazy world of putting our home back together. Yet there were so many silver linings to this big storm cloud, I can’t even count them all. Mostly it was about the coming together of family and community. When I finally did make it home, there were about 20 people helping clean up the place. Someone knew someone who had a vacant furnished house downtown where we could live until our home was back together. In this borrowed house, we came very close as a family. My sister and I shared a room and really got to know each other and have been the best of friends ever since. We laughed and enjoyed the quirkiness of the 100 year old house we borrowed, bringing us back in time with strange antiques and slanted floors. And we rebuilt – foundations stronger than ever.
Funny how time flies and yet seems so long ago at the same time. I was a teenager, learning, growing and finding my way. As difficult as it all was, I wouldn’t change a thing.