A Safe Haven

A Safe Haven

From Chicken Soup for the Soul Celebrating People Who Make a Difference

A Safe Haven

No love, no friendship can cross the path of our destiny without leaving some mark on it forever.

Francois Mauriac

Two weeks after my husband and I moved into our new house in Oklahoma, he was deployed to Iraq. As I unpacked boxes, hung pictures, and tried hard to make our house feel like a home, I wondered how I would get through the coming months without him.

Our three-year-old son cried himself to sleep each night, asking me if Daddy was ever coming home. “Mommy, I miss my Daddy,” Cameron would say as tears streamed down his cheeks. I did my best to console him by singing silly songs, reading his favorite book, The Big Red Barn, over and over, and giving him countless hugs.

“Daddy will be home before you know it,” I’d say, smiling, trying to look convincing.

Most nights he ended up in bed with me, snuggled tightly at my side, tossing and turning, and mumbling “Daddy” until the wee hours of the morning. Often I would feel his tiny hand gently patting my face, making sure Mommy was still there. Our four-month-old baby, Colby, was the only one sleeping soundly, but he barely had a chance to bond with his father before he went off to war.

Even though my parents lived only thirty miles away, I felt like a single mom and utterly alone. I missed living on a military base where I experienced the only real community I’d ever known. I’d met a few neighbors in our new neighborhood, but everyone was busy with careers and driving children to baseball games and ballet. We barely even spoke.

One morning I glanced out the window and noticed something strange. I walked outside and saw a green tinge to the sky that made my hair stand on end. The sound of the phone ringing jarred me from my thoughts.

“Hello.”

“Hi, Mom.”

“There is the possibility of tornadoes tonight,” she said, sounding a bit nervous. “I’ll be over later this afternoon. I don’t want you and the boys to be alone. Your dad is working late.”

When I hung up the phone, I felt a sense of relief sweep over me knowing that I had Mom to count on. We ordered a pizza, and she and Cameron went to pick it up. While they were gone, the tornado sirens jolted me from my chair. I turned on the news to learn of a tornado forming above our town.

I called Mom on her cell phone and told her to get back here fast. Soon after she arrived home the tornado warning expired. Our scare was over—for the moment.

“I’m going to head back home for the night. I think everything is going to be okay,” she said as she hugged me, and kissed the boys good-bye.

“Call me when you get there,” I said.

Later that evening, I turned on the ten o’clock news. Tornadoes were popping up all over the state. Feeling fearful, I called my mother. “Sirens are going off here,” she said, her voice shaking. “I have to go.”

Just then the tornado sirens sounded again. I turned the volume up on the television as the weatherman made an announcement.

“Do not panic. Get into your storm shelters immediately. If you don’t have one, go into a middle closet or bathroom of your house.”

I bolted to the baby’s room, scooping him from his crib and ran to wake Cameron.

“We need to get into the bathtub,” I told him. “There is a big storm outside, and we’ll be safe in here,” I said, trying to sound brave.

I tried hard to pull a mattress over us but it wouldn’t stay. The baby was crying inconsolably. The dog was barking. I could hear the wind howling in a violent rage outside. Fear gripped me like never before. I felt queasy and completely alone as the tornado sirens blared in the distance.

“I’m scared, Mommy.”

“It’s okay, little man. Let’s say a prayer and ask God to help us.”

“God,” I prayed out loud, “please keep Cameron, baby brother, and Mommy safe,” I said, trembling. With that, the doorbell rang. It was our neighbor Tim from across the street.

“Karen and I are leaving. You and the boys are coming with us.”

For a second I hesitated. Where in the world were they going? If they were getting into their car, I think we’d be better off here.

Without thinking further, I ran out the door with the baby in my arms and Cameron at my side.

“Go ahead and grab the baby a blanket,” said Tim.

I couldn’t budge. I stood like a statue there on the porch in absolute fear, afraid to even move. Tim grabbed the baby and threw his jacket over him to protect him from the heavy rain.

“Cameron, let’s play a game,” he said, smiling, and grabbed his hand. “Let’s run through the rain. Isn’t this fun?”

Stinging rain pelted us and lightning crackled and snapped all around us as we ran down the darkened street through deep puddles toward the neighbor’s house.

“Kristen and Mike have a storm shelter in their garage.”

Tim knocked on the garage door and it instantly flew open. Karen and several other neighbors were gathered around a radio. “The tornado is on the ground at Fifteenth and Kelley,” said the weatherman. “Be in your shelters.”

That was only two city blocks from our neighborhood. We huddled in the storm shelter for what seemed like an eternity. Then it was all over.

We had minimal damage. Only power lines were knocked down on the nearby highway. I called Mom. She cried when she heard my voice. Her town had suffered little damage, also. I thanked God that we were all okay.

When my husband returned from the Middle East, I had a list of things for him to do. Number one was to have someone install a storm shelter.

“I have something that I need to do first,” he said as he grabbed Cameron and headed toward the front door. I watched him from the window as he shook hands with Tim.

Several years have passed since that stormy spring night. The unexpected kindness my neighbors have shown to me and my family is something we cannot repay, but we’ve been able to cook dinner for one neighbor who had a new baby. We’ve sent words of encouragement to the family two doors down who lost a loved one. We’ve become a real community who really cares for one another.

Each time my husband is away and my car won’t start or I see dark clouds roll in, I know now that I’m not alone. Friends are nearby. All I have to do is head to the neighbor’s house. Any one of them.

Kim Rogers

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