-- The Call, "Oklahoma"
I never made it to my undergrad commencement ceremony -- because I was cowering in a basement.
The sky darkened outside my garage apartment as I ate breakfast on May 8, 1993, in Norman, Okla. When the clouds turned from their familiar deathly grey to that telltale sickly green, I called my folks and told them not to drive down from the city. By the time I hung up the phone, my landlord in the adjoining house was knocking frantically on the door. "You'd better get down here with us," she said. "You're not safe up here."
Born and raised in Oklahoma City, I've spent many an afternoon and evening sheltering like this. I've crouched in bathtubs and basements, huddled in hallways and high schools. I've been bored and terrified, often simultaneously. But I've been blessed -- tornadoes have gotten so close but stayed, thankfully, so far from me and my loved ones.
As a kid, of course, tornadoes can seem wondrous. I remember pressing my face against our front-door glass around age 7, watching a faint funnel dance its way along Grand Boulevard in Oklahoma City, just a few blocks away. The next day, we drove the boulevard and saw the huge old trees uprooted, the park swings knotted, the monkey bars toppled. Around age 12, upon hearing reports of twisters in the area of our home in Edmond, an OKC suburb, my father and I stood in our cul-de-sac, taking advantage of its clear views to scan the horizon for dipping funnels. My mother occasionally stamped onto the front porch to cuss at us and threaten that she wouldn't mourn if both us fools got swept away.