69: All the Way Home

69: All the Way Home

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Miracles and More

All the Way Home

The power of intuitive understanding will protect you from harm until the end of your days.

~Lao Tzu

Sometimes, we just get a feeling. Whether instinct or intuition, it’s a visceral jolt that sets us on guard and shapes our responses, if we are wise enough to listen. I definitely had it when I stepped out of the main building of the community college in Parsons, Kansas, at 8:30 in the evening on April 19, 2000. Having just finished an exam, I was tired and ready to go home. I looked up and noted the sky was an odd, yellowish-gray, and the air was eerily still and heavy for early spring. I thought: Man, it looks like it’s going to rain, and probably hail, any minute.

I knew my husband would freak out if I got caught in a hailstorm in our brand-new Suburban. We lived in the country six miles away, so I knew I’d better hurry. After jogging to my car, I jumped in and headed for home. Martina McBride belted out “Wild Angels” from the CD player.

As I drove around the plaza a few blocks away, the sky grew more ominous, with low, dark clouds building to the south. The wind picked up, sending a plastic shopping bag dancing past me on the street. Rain slowly started to fall, and I knew a storm was imminent.

I quickly began thinking of places nearby to pull in for cover until the worst had passed. Two blocks away was Parsons Motors, which had a large metal awning that would shelter me. I decided I would stop to see if there was room for my car. But as I went under the underpass and prepared to turn into the drive, a strong sense of apprehension washed over me, and an inner voice said, No, just keep going and get home as fast as you can. If the car gets damaged by hail, it’s not the end of the world.

So that’s what I did. Martina kept singing, and I kept on driving. There were only a few cars in front of me, all moving west down Main Street toward the city limit, our headlights reflecting off the road as the wet patches began to broaden. With just three miles to go, I started to think I might actually make it in time.

I couldn’t have been more wrong. After little more than a mile, I passed over the bridge near the country club and ran smack into a wall of blinding rain and wind so strong it caught me off guard, pushing my side mirror up against the driver’s window and my vehicle hard to the right. The last thing I saw clearly were the sudden brake lights of the cars in front of me as each halted and veered onto the shoulder of the highway. I quickly followed suit. I sat stunned and somewhat frightened, gripping the steering wheel, as the wind and rain rocked my large Suburban. I could scarcely make out the hood of my car as all my other surroundings disappeared into the swirling darkness. I imagined this was as close as I could come to experiencing a hurricane in Kansas. I silently prayed it wouldn’t get any worse.

Ten long minutes passed before the torrent eased and each car, in turn, pulled slowly back onto the roadway. I crept the final two miles to my house, and as I pulled into the drive the rain completely stopped. Before I could turn off the car, my husband and two young daughters came barreling out the front door. I climbed out of the car and met them at the rear. The girls threw their arms around my waist. My husband was shaking, his voice cracking as he asked, “Where have you been? A tornado just hit Parsons!”

I gasped, as I struggled to register what he had said. I looked down at my children, my eyes brimming with tears, and could only stammer, “I just came from there. I was stopped outside of town in the worst rainstorm I have ever seen.”

We went inside, and my husband told me about the evening’s weather alerts. He couldn’t believe that no one at the college had told us we were under a tornado warning before we left the building. He asked if I had heard the tornado sirens or a radio weather bulletin. I explained that I had a CD playing and might have gone through town right before the sirens sounded. I told him about my gut feeling that I should just go home. We were so thankful I had chosen not to stop.

The next day, I watched news footage of the destruction. An F3 tornado had torn through the center of the city at 8:50 p.m., damaging fifty-three businesses and 577 homes. I was overcome with sadness and disbelief, viewing the devastated landscape of the town where I was born and raised. It was then that I realized the full magnitude of my decision to stay my course. I stared at the TV and began trembling and crying as it flashed an image of the mangled, twisted metal building that had been Parsons Motors. That metal awning in front, where I had planned to take shelter, was completely collapsed; I would likely have been crushed beneath it.

Gifts come in many forms, whether subtle nudges to our unconscious minds or outright divine interventions. I believe wholeheartedly I was a blessed recipient that night.

~Tiffany Flynn

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