It didn’t seem like a bad storm.
In fact, I thought it would miss us. And I was a little bummed, to be honest. Because I love a good storm.
My 6-year-old son and I stood at the sliding door, listening as thunder roared in the distance. The sky started to light up, as droplets of rain began to hit us through the screen door. Suddenly a streak of lightning hit the ground in the near distance. Followed by another.
Maybe this storm won’t miss us after all.
We shut the door as the wind seemed to pick up. The clouds looked so low and…odd. I felt a sudden urge to take my kids to the basement.
Barely a minute later, an emergency alert sounded on my phone.
“Tornado warning. Seek shelter immediately.”
I felt frozen in place. Shocked.
“Go to the basement. Now!” I told the kids, as I tried to grab our dog and cat.
I kept thinking this isn’t supposed to happen. Not here.
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We huddled close in the basement. The kids were crying. The lights flickered. I couldn’t get my phone to work. My cell service kept going in and out. Where was the tornado? What direction was it headed?
I could hear a distant roar, but I couldn’t tell if it was thunder or something else. The sound of the wind disappeared, only to be replaced with an eery stillness.
I finally got through to my husband.
“I can see the funnel,” he said over the phone. “It went through a parking lot, about ¼ of a mile south of our house”.
He had barely missed getting caught in its path.
This isn’t supposed to happen. Not here.
The tornado blew through our little town fast—but the bewilderment, damage, and fear it left behind lingered.
Semis flipped upside down.
Campers in piles.
Trailers torn to pieces.
This isn’t supposed to happen. Not here.
In Gaylord, we anticipate snowstorms. Ice damage. Not EF-3 tornadoes.
As I watched videos from others afterward of what they saw as the tornado sped toward them on Main Street, you could hear the bewildered shock in their voices. You could see it in their faces as they tried to understand what was happening.
Because something like this just doesn’t happen. Not here.
It has been heartbreaking to see the damage our community has suffered. My heart hurts for the individuals injured and killed. Those who lost their homes. Their businesses. But there was something more bothering me. Something I couldn’t put my finger on. Something that kept me awake last night. A deeper pit in my stomach. And I wasn’t sure why this bothered me so much.
I realized why this morning.
You see, I had an unexplained acute stroke last year at 31 years old. No warning signs. No risk factors. My world flipped upside down in a split second.
It wasn’t supposed to happen. Not like that. Not to people like me.
It was unexpected. Rare.
Just like this tornado.
Trauma in and of itself is hard.
But sudden, rare, or unexpected trauma? It throws a whole new layer of confusion on top of the shock.
And when that happens?
You need a hand to pull you through. To guide you. You need your people, your community. You need to reach out. You need to know you’re not alone. When I had my stroke, I was so thankful for a strong support system. The prayers flooded in. They pulled me through.
Yes, our little town of Gaylord is reeling from this unexpected blow.
But, as I sit here listening to the constant sound of helicopters scoping out the damage, I’m confident we’ll find our way through this. Because this community knows how to come together. How to pull each other up. How to not let others walk through it alone.
And that is exactly what brings about healing in moments like this.
You might not have dealt with a tornado recently, but maybe something else unexpected or rare has interrupted your daily life.
You need to know you don’t have to face it alone.
Stop hiding the fears that keep you up at night. Stop being afraid to share what you’re struggling with. Stop standing alone against your anxiety.
It’s time to reach out to your support system. Reach out to your community. Be vulnerable with those who love you. You don’t have to keep fighting this alone. Allow others to walk with you through it.
This is how we survive the unexpected . . . together.
Note from the author: Thank you for keeping the community of Gaylord, Michigan in your prayers as we strive to put our town back together and rebuild what has been destroyed.
To those injured and to the families of those lost, we are praying for you and are here for you.