Monday, May 31, 2010

Blow me away – 25 years later

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.


  1. Oh wow, what an experience. I completely understand about how living through such things can shape your life. Our house fire had a similar impact on me. It had a huge impact on my day-to-day living especially in the first few months, but even for years to come.

    Then at some point you think you yourself--wow--I haven't thought about it in ages, this thing that was such a defining moment for me. How is it that it's slipped so far to the back of my mind? We just passed the 20th anniversary last year and I felt he same as you. It seemed so long ago, and yet parts of it felt like they'd happened only recently.

  2. Wow, so good you can see the bright side of that tornado, so much damage was done. We have been so blessed here to have not experienced many even close to us. Every year when tornado season starts down South, I wonder how people get through it. It's nice to know that you can come through strong and together as a family.