So I had been having dreams that I was killed in a tornado. Dreams like that aren't fun, but they are especially distressing when you find yourself in a strange town, at night, in the dark, surrounded by fields and not much else, with no one else on the road and a storm that looks like the Apocalypse on the horizon.
I had to travel to Freeport, Illinois last week for business. It was a five hour drive at most. I noticed about two hours into it that the sky looked active. But I didn't see anything particularly alarming. That is until I hit Sterling at about 8:30 pm. What had been my cloudy but unstormy sky turned BLACK! THUNDEROUS! ILLUMINATED WITH LIGHTENING! Maybe the recent rash of storms, tornadoes, and flooding in the Midwest had my hackles up, but seeing that storm and remembering my dreams brought a feeling of doom that I had never experienced.
I called John. He checked the radar, and informed me that there was a tornado watch and a big red radar blob between my current location and my destination. Yeah. I'm looking at that big red blob I informed him.
I was traveling parallel to the storm. I thought, if I only kept that heading, I would be fine. Two miles later, my Garmin instructed me to turn left. Into the storm. That's when the panic attack hit. I had never voluntarily driven myself into danger before. I was in the middle of nowhere. There was no place to take shelter, although the warning on the radio was directing me to TAKE SHELTER IMMEDIATELY. The only other cars I saw on the road were ones heading toward me, away from the storm.
Since I had no choice but to continue my drive, with no idea where I was and no place to pull over unless I wanted to knock on a stranger's door and invite myself in for dinner, I kept on toward my final destination still 40 miles away.
I gripped the steering wheel, tried to calm my panic telling myself I was being silly, and prayed and prayed and prayed.
I also started talking to my Grandma Kirby. She was a force to be reckoned with on Earth, so I figured from heaven she could do unfathomable things to get me through the storm. Every time lightening lit up the sky, I imagined it was her answering me and consoling me and telling me I would be fine. I could imagine her talking to God, saying, "You stop that storm right now. My baby is down there scared."
As the miles and minutes ticked by, I occasionally spotted a car and said, "See. You're not the only idiot on the road." I was, however, the only idiot driving into the storm. The rain pounded, the thunder roared, the wind blew my car and the lightening continued to flash. I kept my eyes on the road and sky, wondering if I would have time to pull over and lay in a ditch when the tornado dropped out of the sky.
It took over an hour to drive that last 40 miles. But I finally made it to my hotel six and a half hours after I started my drive. I've never been so happy to see a Hampton Inn as I was that night. I called John to inform him I was safe. And I cried. A lot. I had worked myself into a frenzy brought on by the darkness, seclusion, storm warnings, and recent death dreams.
When I woke up that morning, the night before was already fading into the background. But, the extra wrinkles on my face and sprout of gray hairs reminded me of how terrified I was. I again said a thank you to God and my grandma, and vowed never to drive to Freeport, Illinois again.
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