April 29, 2014

Misty Watson: Being a good neighbor through the storm

You never forget the way it sounds when a tornado wakes you up in the middle of the night.

I was 15, a sophomore in high school, when one came through north Murray County where my parents lived. It made its way up the west side of Highway 225 for several miles before crossing the road and heading through the Temple Grove area.

I’ve always been terrified of strong storms, and I was sleeping on the recliner in the living room — Mom was on the couch — when I bolted upright, jumped up and ran.

Where I was going, I have no idea. But I ran into my dad and sister as I turned the corner.

All I heard was a roar. We had had no warning, no time to move to the inner room of the house, no time to come up with a game plan. We stood there, a family of four, waiting on it to pass.

It was over as quickly as it had begun, and fortunately the house was mostly untouched. Trees, sheds and several of our neighbors weren’t as fortunate. There was a lot of damage.

You could stand in my parents’ yard the next day and see the line of destruction north. The tornado had cut a path through thickets separating people’s property.

As soon as the roar was over, my dad ran to the back door to shine an insanely bright flashlight through the heavy rain to check on my grandparents. They lived just up the hill from us.

My grandfather was doing the same. He and my dad yelled through the storm making sure each household was OK.

As the storm that brought the tornado subsided, all through northern Murray County you could hear neighbors shouting “Are y’all OK?” “Yeah, we’re OK. Are y’all OK?” “Do y’all need anything?”

Other neighbors rode four-wheelers to check on others.

The power was off, many phone lines were down, and it had been a scary night. This was long before the days of texting, smartphones and social media. (We didn’t even have a computer in our house yet!)

Before long, we heard a “moo.” We didn’t own any cattle. We heard our dog barking.

We opened the front door to see cows in our yards, and not long afterward someone on a four-wheeler trying to find them to corral them back home.

I remember the destruction, the fear and all the bad things from that night. But I also remember the way neighbors reached out to each other — and the cows wandering around aimlessly through north Murray County.

As severe weather reaches us again, I’m still thankful for good neighbors. We were invited to seek shelter Monday night with our neighbors, who have a basement. We do not. (Thankfully we didn’t have to head down to the basement, at least not Monday night.)

I’ve heard of others opening their homes to family, friends and neighbors. As I watch and read the news, mixed in with the death and destruction, I see uplifting stories of how people are helping one another.

It reassures my faith in the goodness of people.

Keep it up.

Murray County native Misty Watson is a staff writer and photographer with The Daily Citizen. You can contact her at mistywatson@daltoncitizen.com, facebook.com/MistyWatsonDCN or on Twitter, @mistydwatson.

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