When I was four a large tornado hit my hometown of Fargo, North Dakota. I clearly remember many of the events that happened that day—at least they’re clear when I dream about them now; maybe it’s the countless times the stories have been re-told that I actually remember. People died that day and a good chunk of our neighborhood was flattened but it’s the quirky little details that live in the memories of now aging impressionable children.
As the storm sirens began my dad called from his office at the telephone company and told my mother to grab the boys and hide behind the furnace; he would make it home as best he could.
The fury came and went and my father was painfully slow to show. My mother was beyond frazzled as he walked in the door hours later. When he sheepishly admitted that he had climbed to the top of a fragile telephone transmitting tower to watch the storm come in a family legend was born. My mother lost it with him in unprecedented fashion, but my brother and I saw dad with new eyes. Our father had bravely gone where no thinking human would go—to one of the highest points in North Dakota just to go toe to toe with a killer tornado. I’m not sure I’ve ever been more proud of him. By all accounts he had the best seat in the house.
As wonderful as it would be for me to have now, a picture of my dad in that tower would simply be too much to ask for. But I would love to have a photograph of me with my mom and my brother on what was essentially our small town’s Pearl Harbor Day.
Today the story of grampa climbing the tower during the tornado is among my young son’s favorite bedtime stories. It just never grows old and only gets better with each telling.
Big days need to be treated with respect. A simple snapshot taken that day would be a personal treasure now. I want to see what we looked like, I want to see what we were wearing, I want to see the look on my mother’s face.
No one thought to take a picture. It’s just another one of those things I will have to draw badly.