The supercell appeared on radar a year ago tonight. By 12:33 AM Tuesday March 3, 2020, that [expletive deleted] was here. You know what happened.
I was behind screens watching radar, data, internal chat, typing furiously in surreal horror. Since then I’ve watched and read everything I could find about that tornado. I’ve been back through the radar data. I’ve reviewed the meteorology. I’ve reviewed every tweet I sent and every frame of video footage I could find. I’ve looked at, and walked in, stood in and looked up through, your damage. Many, many times. Trying to process it, to understand it, to be better. I’ve even written a retrospective.
Along the way I’ve snapped the heads off a few of you who’ve come after us on Twitter. I am sorry about that. I had a particularly abrasive (and public) Twitter exchange with Chad Withrow. I was wrong, Chad did not deserve to be hauled out in front of everyone in an effort to shame him. That wasn’t Will or Andrew who did that. It was me. I’ve since apologized to Chad. I accept full and complete responsibility for that. I wish I could say it was the only time I’ve represented the worst of Twitter. It is my fallen, flawed personality, the logician in me speaking, the horrible pride I have in our work, and frankly a sinful nature lashing out at people who, in quiet moments when the anger subsides, I respect and admire. And I think a small part of it is my brain getting scrambled by the trauma of the tornado itself. This neither excuses nor justifies. I only sit here and admit it and say I got angry and self righteous and I’m sorry.
I’m having trouble with the anniversary. There’s something about covering an EF-3 killer tornado that has caused me to own it, but it’s confusing because I feel guilt for “owning” it when I wasn’t the one who lost a home, a job, or a friend, or a or family member.
I find myself reliving the event for the seven hundredth time on a recurring loop. Middle of the day, middle of the night, there it is, living it again in my head, as if by running it back one more time I can somehow fix it or change it. What a lie that is. Weather guys who’ve covered tornadoes like ours say to avoid reliving the event. It’s not healthy. I think that is good advice, but y’all, turning away from it feels like shrinking from opportunity to honor memories and encourage.
So, let me say I remember you, Mike and Albree, killed outside the Attaboy. I want to say I didn’t know you and I don’t think I have the standing to grieve you but in a distant, palpable way, I do. I’ve heard from your friends. Wow did they all love you. They miss you terribly. Your legacy is not as tornado victims. It’s the lives you led, the love you gave.
To those who woke up in the middle of the night terrified, you are seen today, tonight, and tomorrow. The tornado took your roof and home and your sense of things being OK. A low probability event picked you and I don’t know why. I’ve heard from you this year. I understand the stress. The anxiety. PTSD. If you’re like me your brain got scrambled a bit, your feels are out of order, something feels wrong emotionally and you don’t really know why or worse, you are not sure what to do with it, or about it. Maybe you ignore it, maybe it boils over. I don’t have answers. I know it helps to talk to someone who has been through this before. It may help to read this about storm anxiety, and how to deal with it.
If you woke up like normal that March third, give those who didn’t some room. And please lose the quick cliches.
I was having a normal day yesterday and things just hit me again, suddenly, the reliving cycle coming back around, all the tornado stuff, knowing I had to write this blog and mark this date and come across well intentioned TV specials featuring videos of the tornado and wrecked homes and precious people with stories of smelling gas and figuring out what to do next as the pandemic grasped us all, then squeezed. All the feels re-rose and welled up and came at me at once, and, right in the middle of doing a burpee, it boiled over. I stopped and I got quietly emotional. I had a friend gently pull me aside and take me outside in the dry stable clear air and walk next to me and just listen. While walking it off I ran across another friend and I was honest with him and he gave me the space to process. Two very strong men handled it perfectly. No cliches. Just space and kindness and compassion.
If you find yourself scrambled, I understand, even if no one else does. I don’t really fully understand it, I’m not good at emotions and trauma, I’d rather “not talk about it.” I am not a feels expert, but I think what I’m feeling is not weakness, but trauma. I am not broken, I’m hurting. I’ll heal, you’ll heal, slowly, with time, and at our own pace, in our community.
Blow away black tornado
Blow away troubled sky
Blow away disappointment
All the worry days gone by
Ready for the crops to ripe and
Leaving all the worst behind
Welcome that sun
Looking forward to better times
No worries tonight. Rain may sneak in from the south. HRRR model thinks it’ll miss us. We’ll watch it.
Quiet weather for the next week.
Hoping things quiet down for you.