Last Wednesday evening, I drove home at the end of a strange weather day. All day long, the skies would open up and let loose a torrent of rain, stopping abruptly to gather steam for the next offering. Dark thunder clouds chased me home, but no rain fell on my car as I drove on dry roads. The National Weather Alert that sounded on the radio seemed surreal. A tornado – in January! – had just touched down in a county south of me. The warning said to abandon your vehicle or mobile home if you were in Catawba County (where I started) or Southeastern Burke County. I was on the edge, headed out of the danger zone to my home in the center of Burke County. I would’ve felt foolish (and cold) laying face down in a wet ditch, so I kept going. Lightning flashed on either side of my car as I entered the safety of my garage and the comfort of my husband in our warm kitchen, redolent with my beckoning dinner.
While we ate, the tornado touched down in the town of Icard, one mile south of the highway where I heard the warning, fifteen minutes after I passed by unscathed. The 130 mph winds classified it at the upper end of a Stage 2 twister. The pictures on the news showed uneaten dinners still on tables or stoves where walls had been ripped away. In all, 66 homes were destroyed, with $2 million damage (the amount for one home in California). The people interviewed made statements like "the good Lord was watching over me" as they cried out “Jesus, help me!” The most censorable word in our politically-correct society was loudly proclaimed. Absent were the usual angry people blaming the government for the disaster, replaced by people thankful to God for life.
Every day, more times than we can count, tragedy almost strikes. We’re late for work and come across an accident on the freeway, right at the place we should have been. A planter falls off a balcony and would’ve crashed on our heads if we hadn’t stopped to tie our shoelace. Rather than thinking how unlucky we are when something bad happens, I wonder how our attitudes would change if we were more aware. What if we could see the myriad ways we escape disaster? Wouldn’t our response be to thank God?
This time I was aware. God protected me by just one mile and fifteen minutes. And I’m thankful.