April 16, 1953, 5:30 p.m.
It was Saturday. I was upstairs lying on my bed reading in a school
history book about the War Between the States. There was a test the next
week at school. It became dark, signaling an approaching storm, a
typical late afternoon Georgia thunder boomer. Lightening was
continuous, and the wind starting picking up. I went toward the window
to close it. I could see stuff flying around in the air and heard the
banging against the slate siding. Something hit the window and broke it.
I ran downstairs!
Dad was standing at the kitchen window looking out. He had just finished putting new tops on the counter. "Wow! that looks like some storm coming," he said. "We had better go outside and get the clothes off the line." I walked out onto the small porch that was once on the kitchen and opened the screen door. The weeks wash was hanging on the line and the sheets were parallel to the ground flapping in the strong wind. When I opened the screen door it came off the hinges and was pulled into the air. I thought twice about going outside!
The sound of the storm by this time was deafening, like a freight train was rolling right through the house. It was raining so hard the neighbors's house could barely be seen. Dad suggested I get the kids into the bathroom, the smallest room, and ride out the storm. Susan and Nancy had a friend over and they were playing in the front bedroom. I believe Charles was there with them. We hurried into the bathroom and shut the door. We were one frightened bunch of people. We were at the mercy of this storm, waiting to see if the structure would protect us. It was obvious this was no ordinary storm.
I'll never forget Charles, who was 6 at the time, telling me to read the 'Good Book' to make the storm go away. We needed divine protection. Instead of reading, we prayed the Lord's Prayer together. Dad did not come into the bathroom with us. He was like the captain of the ship looking around at what needed to be done to protect his family and house. He was also very much concerned about where Mom was. She could not be located in the house.
Once the train had moved on down the track I went outside the bathroom to see what had happened. The living room was in shambles, also the fron bedroom. A piece of wood was sticking through the ceiling in the bedroom, it had blown through the roof and into the room. The front windows were blown out. The TV set, which was sitting against the front window in the living room, was now sitting screen down on the other side of the room. Susan and I rescued that right away! The rain was continuing to come down in torrents. It was still difficult to see what had happened outside.
Only Dad and Mom stayed in the house that night. I believe Susan and Nancy stayed with their friend and Fred and I stayed with Bob Barr. The next morning, when we could finally see, the neighborhood looked like a war zone. The air smelled of fresh pine and cut wood. The house took a strong blast, but it stood, and was repairable. We didn't have telephone service for about a month, I believe. Electricity was off several days.
Charley and Susan were also home, but I can't remember what they were
doing. Mother had gone downtown to pick Fred up from Kirven's where he
worked in the men's shoe department for Mr. Walsh.
I'm not sure about this, but I think my friend and I finished our
practice session and she went home. I do remember storing my cello
under the bed, and proceeding to the bathroom for a bath. The next thing
I knew, everyone was banging on the door and yelling for me to unlock it
so they could come in. Seemed like a strange request to me, but they
sounded awfully anxious, so I did. That's when I realized something
horrible was happening because things were flying around the dining
room behind them.
We huddled in the bathroom watching debris flying past the bathroom
window until it seemed the worst of it was over, then went into the
back bedroom where I saw our little playhouse outside come apart at the
seams. It was a strange sight. I don't remember what anyone said except
Charley. He kept saying,"Read the Bible! Read the Bible!" I have to agree it
looked like the end of the world to me, so
reading the Bible seemed very appropriate.
It was awesome to see how quickly the tornado leveled things. In the
front bedroom where I had been sitting less than a half hour earlier, a
huge beam had penetrated the wall beneath the windows as easily as if it
had been a sharp spike slammed into place by a giant sledge hammer.I
remember thinking how terrible it was the new counter tops had been destroyed.
All that work for nothing. And then there was a sort of panic as we
realized Mama and Fred might have been caught by the wind and possibly
overturned in the car. There was much joy when they made their way home
through the debris.
One of my final memories of that day is the odd yellow color beaming down from the sky
following the storm. It was like a freakish sunshine in the midst of so
much destruction. I've never forgotten how eerie that color was. Maybe
that's why I've never been fond of yellow to this day. I have one more
memory of that day which has affected my life. Every time I think about
renovating a kitchen, I try to keep existing counter tops! Superstition?
Maybe, but I have this inbred fear that if I install new counter tops, a
big wind will come along and wipe them out!