I’ve always been terrified of being caught in a natural disaster. Tornados and earthquakes especially; tornados specifically. I attribute my strong memory of storms back to this – night where I could get to sleep because my dad’s weather radio was going full steam, hours spent at schools waiting for a warning to life, even an afternoon spent at my sister-in-law’s parents’ house where her little brother and I tried to choose the right name for the greenish brown shade the sky had turned.
Earlier today I remembered another storm… In the summer of 2004, I spent my last few months with Student Life traveling with a camp team. The night of the storm, we were in our last night before our first day of our first week of camp. We’d known each other for about two weeks, and while I knew a few of my teammates beforehand, I didn’t really know anyone extremely well at that point. My roommate for that week was Haley Bragg, coincidentally, and we were staying in the “nice dorm” at Stephen F. Austin State University. I seem to have blocked out everything about the actual room except this – it was so hot and muggy outside, and we kept it so cool inside, that when you’d open the dorm, it would create enough rain (condensation) to leave standing pools of water. Thinking back on that week, I laugh at it being our first. It was challenging for many, many reasons, but I think that those challenges turned us into a solid, confident group pretty quickly.
Anyway, back to the storm. It was our last night before our first day of our first week of camp – roughly eight hours before Gregg Matte, Tomlin and literally thousands of students would show up on our doorstep (or, rather, SFA’s doorstep). I don’t remember the exact course of events that put us all together, but Haley and I ended up walking around on the dorm balconies (these dorms were laid out a lot like old outdoor entry hotels) with Brash, Bob Hedge and Kurtis Donnelly. On one side of the dorm, entire tree limbs were whipping across the parking lot – into cars, traveling hundreds of yards… On the other side, a pond was overflowing and the ground had become so saturated with water that the football field’s goalposts were at a 30 degree angle to the ground. It was amazing…but somehow I was never afraid that it would bring a tornado, or result in one of us getting hurt.
Eventually we went to bed (probably after getting in trouble for being loud) and that was that. I may be wrong, but I don’t remember it raining at all for the rest of that week.