Before moving to Georgia in my adolescence, I lived in Stillwater, Oklahoma for the first 12 years of my childhood. It was a wonderful place to grow up as a boy.
There were flat streets for my brother and I to skateboard all around town, lots of arcades for us and our friends to dump quarters into, and fishing at Theta Pond. Oh, and chili cheese dogs on Washington Street.
But there was also a harrowing threat of living in Oklahoma, especially in the summer. That’s because the state is home to more tornadoes than any other place in the world—right smack in the middle of Tornado Alley. And I distinctly remember many close encounters with them, if not once every other summer.
My first memory of a tornado was watching a slow and calming funnel cloud form directly over my house on Admiral Street. It was this giant, swirling, but graceful thing that looked like it could explode into a tornado at any moment. My family and I all watched from the front street. No one said it, but I’m sure all of us we’re thinking: “Please don’t touch down. Please.” We didn’t run because it wasn’t violent looking, and the sirens hadn’t gone off yet. In other words, when you live in Oklahoma, you learn to live with the threat of tornadoes every summer. And you don’t scramble for cover or storm shelters until you can feel, observe, and hear that something violent is about to happen. Continue reading…