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A dodged bullet, thankfully

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By Jesse Osbourne


The day began at 5:30 a.m. My wife was awake in our king-sized bed. Her tossing woke me up, too.
She was concerned about the weather reports she was reading.

“This doesn’t look good,” she said.
My wife sometimes thinks the sky is falling when she reads weather reports.
She says an extra prayer for snow days, asks incessantly if I think there will be snow and checks every weather blog she can find.
I’m used to her having a strong reaction to the forecasts.
She gave me all details, nervously ticking off the bullet points for why I should be concerned, too.
“Your worrying isn’t going to stop a tornado,” I said.
Frankly, I was curt to my wife that morning. The sky wasn’t falling. It would be OK.
Before I walked out of the house, I had changed my mind.
Wives are always right, as I’m learning.
Maybe I should take some blue jeans and tennis shoes, I said, just in case I have to go take pictures of damage.
I scared my wife when I told her we had to hug before we left for work.
“You’re a believer now, too,” she said.
I said I wasn’t, but I really was.
I was early to work, so I stopped to gas up my car. Just in case, you know, I had to drive out in the county to cover tornado damage.
The rule in journalism is that spot news happens on days that you pull into the parking lot with a near-empty gas tank.
At work, things were getting even dicier.
Brandon Mattingly, our sports and news writer, and I had a meeting first thing.
Charge your camera batteries, I said. We might need them.
Breaking news updates about the impending weather kept coming across my desk.
I tried to transcribe an interview, but the updates just coming.
I relayed the updates to my co-workers. The office got a little edgier. Phone calls were made. Plans were reconsidered.
By 10:30 a.m., I gave up trying to transcribe that interview.
I starting updating our website with new information I was getting.
Soon, we found out school was being released early.
Then, I received news that Washington County was in the hot zone. The worst of the storms were predicted to hit here.
Our general manager, Shorty Lassiter, made the decision to close the office at 1 p.m.
We scrambled around, too busy to leave early, but too scared not to.
Calls came from our home office.
“Make sure everything is backed up,” they said.
We made copies of our disaster plan.
I loaded up my things, prepared to update our website from my sister-in-law’s house.
On the drive home, I wondered, “What happens if your town is destroyed? What do you do?”
At my in-laws, I held the police scanner close and listened intently when the weather radio sounded.
When hail started coming down, I retreated to an interior basement room with my wife, my niece and my daughter.
A tornado warning was issued. I updated the website, then grabbed a seat at a child’s table and chair set with my daughter.
Then, amidst the chaos and fear, my daughter and I watched Elmo video clips on an iPad.
It was peaceful, considering the circumstances.
Tornado warnings disappeared and the weather calmed. My wife and I decided to go home, order a pizza and decompress.
After sending Emerson off to bed, we lay numb on the couch.
The television was on, but we weren’t tuned in.
We dodged a bullet. A scary, destructive bullet.
We were lucky enough to have the luxury of relaxing after a stressful day.
Many, many other people weren’t so lucky.
Their towns, their lives, were destroyed.
If you can help by donating supplies or money to any of these locations, I encourage you to do so.
It could have been us.