This afternoon Mr. Videographer and General Flunky (AKA Benny and I) headed into town to catch the matinee showing of “Into the Storm” at the local multiplex, The Edge. We settled into the comfy rocking chair seats with a scattering of fellow audience members, and prepared to see Richard Armitage and some CGI tornadic activity unlike anything we’ve ever seen before–and hopefully, will never see in real life.
First, a little background on our own real-life atmospheric experiences.
Been There, Done That.
Benny and I have been through quite a variety of scary weather systems in our half-century plus here on earth–a huge blizzard with white-out conditions in South Dakota, not to mention hailstones large enough to break windows and kill outside animals; dangerous ice storms in various parts of the Midwest, more hurricanes than I care to think about right here in south Alabama (don’t believe in climate change? Let me show you where a barn and many trees used to stand on my parents’ farm, two-and-a-half hours inland, where hurricanes once left us with nothing more than some heavy rain and a few fallen tree branches. Oh yeah, boys and girls, it’s real).
As a young child, I remember the family driving to a neighboring county that had been hit hard by a tornado. There were houses missing roofs and outer walls, yet in some rooms, the furniture remained perfectly intact. I saw bicycles, twisted and tossed on the tops of some of the buildings left standing, cars flipped and folded and yes, flimsy blades of straw driven into the trunks of ancient oaks. One home might be a complete shambles, nothing left but a mass of rubble, while a house 20 yards away was completely untouched.
I think, other than normal human curiosity, our parents wanted us to see all that destruction in person as a lesson. tornadoes were nothing to fool around with. You had to move fast and be smart. Even then, there were no guarantees . . .
Looking at all the devastation, you felt awful for the people who went through all this. And at the same time, you couldn’t resist breathing a sigh of relief it hadn’t happened to you and your loved ones.
Traditionally, tornadoes have tended to follow similar paths over the years. Our stompin’ grounds have, thankfully, never been in one of those paths, while some communities have been hit multiple times (But who’s to say new paths won’t develop? Mother Nature can be both cruel and fickle).
Too Close for Comfort
Yes, we got a pretty good snow while I lived in Talladega, too. Some of the students got to experience it for the first time. Helen Keller, who visited the school’s fragrance garden in her later years, is celebrated with this statue of young Helen at the water pump.
I had my “up close and personal” moment with a tornado thirty years ago. I was teaching arts & crafts and creative and performing arts classes at the Alabama School for the Blind in Talladega. One rather grey morning, I got a call from the school’s main office during my planning period.
“Angie, you and Mr. W, get to the main building–NOW. A tornado is coming.”
I grabbed my hooded rain slicker from my office in the converted dormitory building and hurried as fast as I could down the stairs, out the front door and across the sidewalk. Fat raindrops thumped against us as the sky darkened ominously. Mr. W (the shop teacher) and I got into ASB’s front hall only moments before the storm hit. The winds picked up tremendous speed and a roar, not unlike a freight train coming right down South Street.
Talk about the nick of time . . .
I remember glancing up and out through a window and see things flying by–what they were, I couldn’t say. It was all one gigantic blur. The students, crouching in the approved position, were quite calm. It was some of the sighted teachers who were verging on nervous wrecks. As for me, I was praying silently that no one would get hurt, and that my second floor apartment in an old Victorian just two blocks down the street would still be there when all this passed over.
There were, thank goodness, no serious injuries. A small portion of the School for the Deaf’s main building’s roof was partially blown off, with majestic old shade trees completely uprooted, sidewalks buckled, and some homes and vehicles badly damaged in parts of this town of 20,000. And my quaint little apartment? Still intact, albeit lacking power for several days after a main transformer blew close to the house’s backyard.
It lasted only a short time, and yet it seemed to last forever, that storm. It was bad enough, but it could have been so much worse. And I decided then and there I never wanted to be that close to another tornado again. Storm chasing? Phooey. Storm avoiding is the life for me.
And then I find out Richard Armitage, my favorite actor, is making a film about tornado chasers . . . wasn’t too sure how I felt about it all at first. As a viewer, I worried that “found footage” might translate into lots of shaky hand-held camera shots that would just irritate me and give me a headache. As a devoted fan, I worried that RA, whose characters’ recent track records for survival fell into the lackluster category might end up playing another doomed hero *sniff*
As a person who knows what survivor’s grief is all about, I was concerned that seeing this unfold on film would bring back too many painful memories of Tuscaloosa and Enterprise and Joplin, of the tornado in my sisters’ former hometown of Huntsville, where her co-worker died from injuries sustained when a tornado struck her apartment building. Of the Birmingham tornadoes that so narrowly missed my oldest sister and her boy. Memories of all those who didn’t make it.
And, frankly, as a wife whose husband has sat through two long Tolkien films featuring Armitage only to please his spouse and not because he particularly enjoyed the genre, I didn’t want to sit through a movie worrying about how bored said spouse was.
An image from Tuscaloosa after the city was struck by a tornado. In one of the ITS interviews, Sarah Wayne Callies recalls driving through the town on her way back to Georgia to shoot more of The Walking Dead. I found myself very depressed in the days and weeks that followed, and often broke into tears watching the images on TV/reading about it. And all those from our area who traveled to Tuscaloosa to help with the cleanup said it was much worse in person–as if a nuclear bomb had gone off.
But you know what? I shouldn’t have worried. “Into the Storm” gets the Mr. Videographer and Fedoralady’s Seal of Approval! More on our thoughts about and reactions to the film in our next installment (yes, the mister will have his say).