Saturday, April 30, 2011

A Tornado Changes Things

Traveling 717 miles to Missouri was not scheduled in my planner for this week, and yet here I am – 717 miles away from everything I had planned. Looking at my planner with the next week scratched out brings to mind Isaiah 55:8. My thoughts and plans are not the Lord's.

"'For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways,' declares the LORD." -Isaiah 55:8

It began as a normal week. Easter was on Sunday and finals were to begin on Friday. Monday through Thursday were to be busy days – tests to study for, papers to finish, and cleaning and packing to top it all off. But, as I have been reminded multiple times in the past three days, my thoughts are not God's thoughts, nor are my ways His ways.

Monday and Tuesday came and went. The week was looking normal. Diligently I wrote out my finals in my planner. Two on Friday, two on Monday, one on Tuesday and then SUMMER!

And then came Wednesday. I woke up Wednesday morning to Damarise looking at her computer screen, "Uh. There is a tornado warning for our area." Ugh I thought. Really, a tornado warning? What a way to start off the day. I'd just woken up, and all I wanted to do was get ready, eat breakfast, and go to class. Little did I know that almost none of those things would be happening. Within 30 seconds the tornado siren was blaring throughout campus. I threw on some clothes, grabbed my backpack, and flocked down the stairs with the rest of our resident hall.

We all nestled down in the basement. Good mornings were said and information began to be shared. A tornado was close by. 8:30am. Yawn. Just get through an hour of this, get ready, and go to class. Those were my thoughts. But again, my thoughts are not God's thoughts. At 9:30am the all clear was issued. We climbed back up the stairs to our hall only to find that all electricity was out. We got ready in the little sunlight streaming through the windows and went to class. Our class met, even though we had no electricity. And again, with the little bit of sunlight streaming through the windows we took notes and listened. Our professor ended class saying that he would see us Monday for our final exam. But, his thoughts were not God's thoughts either.

We came back to our resident building, Andreas. Electricity was still out throughout campus and rumor had it that another tornado was on its way. We headed up to get some food since we still had not eaten breakfast. We went to the Great Hall (our cafeteria) and grabbed some lunch.

Around noon we walked back to Andreas under a bright blue sky. Another tornado? Ha. Couldn't be. It was way too pretty outside. But classes for the rest of the day had been canceled, and rumor still had it that more tornadoes were coming. We were trusting these rumors since our internet was down and most of us had no idea what was going on.

When we arrived back at Andreas, our RA told us that we were now running low on water. No showers were to be taken. No showers? No big deal. It would all be over tomorrow, right? But again, my ways are not God's way.

We all gathered our stuff just in case the second tornado changed from rumor to fact. And by 2:30 the tornado alarm sounded again. With stuff in hand we headed back down the stairs.

Joel, Andreas' Resident Director (RD), came down with his megaphone in hand. "Welcome to your new home." he said. New home? Well, it was beginning to feel a bit familiar, but new home was stretching it, or so I thought.

We were down there for another hour. People were playing games, talking with each other, and trying to study for finals that were on Friday. Finally, after about an hour, the all clear was sounded. Two tornado warnings in one day? New record for me.

We came back upstairs and rumors began to spread that more tornadoes were coming. More? Couldn't be! This seemed impossible. In fact, looking back on it now I still can't believe everything that happened.

We heard that the next tornado was supposed to come at 7pm. Alright, 4 hours to wait out. Damarise and I decided to start packing. Two weeks early? Weird, I know. But we couldn't study because our study guides were on our computers which had no battery due to no electricity. We sorted through drawers and then decided to head up to dinner at 5pm. We wanted to grab dinner before the next tornado. We did not want the tornado warning to go off while we were up getting food. Why? Because the building, Carter, where the Great Hall is located, is an old building and seemed like the worst building to be stuck in for a tornado warning.

Up at dinner we were met with a long line. The electricity was still off, but generators were powering the kitchen and we were able to have food. After about 15 minutes of waiting in line we were right by the food. Ah! Food! We were hungry! And then right as we were about to put food on our plates... the tornado sirens rang out. Noooo! We dropped our plates and walked with the rest of the crowd to the basement.

Huddled up against the walls of a building that did not feel safe in any way, shape, or form, the RD of that building informed us that the tornado was headed right for us. This one, she said, was worse than the previous two. It was 12 minutes away and we were the target. My heart dropped. We were in the most unsafe building on campus and the tornado was headed right for us. I looked around me, some people looked nonchalant, while others sat tensely. I sat there praying – praying that somehow we would not be the target.

The RD kept us informed of the ETA of the tornado. 4 minutes. 4 minutes! People who were seated near the windows were told to huddle in the hallway with us. Everyone was tense. 3 minutes. The tornado was coming. It had touched down a few miles from us and was still headed straight for us.

And then, suddenly, we were no longer the target. The all clear sounded several minutes later. We were safe. No tornado had come. I thought that maybe the information regarding us being the tornado's target was wrong and we had just heard an exaggerated version of it, but today I found out that that tornado was indeed headed straight for Covenant College. It's only by the grace of God that the tornado missed us. Apparently, it was about a mile from us and then suddenly switched directions, bypassed us, and then swung back on its course. It truly is only God who kept us from getting hit.

With the all clear being issued we headed back to Andreas. We were warned that more tornadoes were coming in 45 minutes. More? I couldn't believe it. This day wasn't going at all the way I thought it was going to.

Back in Andreas we waited for the next tornado warning, knowing that it would be coming any time. And within 45 minutes we were once again back in the Andreas basement. This time it did feel more like home. We nestled back in our little corner. We talked and watched people play games. We gave up studying. This day had just been to bizarre to get anything done. We shared what random food we had since we never got dinner. And we stayed comfortably in the basement for about an hour. Once again the all clear was given. Joel said he would see us later since more tornadoes were coming.

Sure enough, less than an hour later we were in the basement again. Home safe home. We played Uno and talked about how bizarre this day had been. Little did we know it was about to get a lot weirder. We stayed down there for a few hours. We had a 20 minute break in between tornado warnings, but we all just stayed in the basement.

Finally at 11pm we were given the ALL all clear. No more tornadoes were supposed to come. We slept soundly through the night and when we woke the next morning we were still without electricity and our water was still being reserved. No showers. Ew.

With finals coming the next day, I was feeling frazzled. I couldn't study without my laptop charged. And since we had no electricity I decided I'd just not study for them right then. Instead we went down the mountain to see where we could help out.

Chattanooga and the surrounding towns had been hit bad. 20+ tornadoes had swept through on Wednesday. The death toll was rising and people were without homes, electricity, and water. We were about to help someone clean up their yard of trees when we got a message that we needed to be back at Covenant College for an all campus meeting.

All campus meeting? Wow! We came back up to campus and were met with shocking news.

Georgia had declared a state of emergency. We were about out of water, electricity probably wouldn't be on for weeks, and food was running low. And then came one word that I never thought I would hear at a college in Georgia. Maybe on the mission field, but Georgia, really?!


One little word, yet so much meaning packed into it. The campus was to be evacuated by 3pm Friday. My mind whirred. I wanted to cry, I wanted to ask questions, I wanted to rewind time and have everything go according to how I had planned this week out in my planner. But, that wasn't going to happen.

Damarise and I headed up to our room. By this time we were out of water and electricity was still not working. We packed and cleaned as much as we could before the sun set. Friends were leaving and goodbyes were being said. Goodbyes that we thought would come in two weeks suddenly came in two hours.

As for finals, all of them were canceled. Studying, which had previously occupied everyone's mind, suddenly became the last thing people were thinking about. Everyone was in "clean, pack, and get off campus" mode.

Friday morning, one of the staff who lives on the mountain let Damarise and I come to her house to shower (seeing as we hadn't showered in two days we were definitely feeling grimy!). After a wonderful shower (I don't think I have ever felt so grateful for a shower!), we headed back to campus to pack and clean. We finished by noon, said our goodbyes, and hit the road headed for Missouri.

As we sat in the car traveling 717 miles away from a place we were supposed to be in for another two weeks we began to talk about the past 48 hours. We couldn't believe we did't have finals. We couldn't believe Sophomore year ended just like that. We couldn't believe we were evacuated from Covenant College. We couldn't believe that tornado didn't hit us. But we could and can believe that God's plans are perfect and that He has a plan for all of this, even if traveling 717 miles away wasn't written in my planner.

"'For My thoughts are not your thoughts,nor are your ways My ways,' declares the LORD." -Isaiah 55:8

Please keep Chattanooga and the surrounding cities in your prayers. The death toll keeps rising and electricity and water are still not off. Thank you!

1 comment:

Bonnie said...

Glad you're safe!

Your blog has been listed at :)