The winds came with little warning in the early hours of March 3 — Super Tuesday.
My husband woke me just before 1 a.m. A tornado was in the area, he said. It was close, very close. I might have to take our 16-month-old and head to the basement.
He peered out our bedroom window. The wind howled. The tornado siren screamed. Then it came. A wall of debris, thick and wide. Careening toward us. Its windspeed was 165 mph.
I scooped our son from his crib, and we ran. The windows shattered. The house cracked, the most horrible cracks. And as I hit the first tread of our basement stairs, the roof flew off, snatched by the wind like an angry giant.
* * *
I grew up on sailboats. We’d go in search of the wind. It had taken my father and my mother across the Atlantic Ocean and back. Finding the wind, filling out the sail as my father looked on with pride, was my first brush with independence. I’d yank the main sheet, feel the sail cup the breeze and off we’d go.
I can find the wind. It can take us places.
But I also learned that if you pulled too tight, if you changed course too fast, heeled too far, the wind could also capsize you. And it did. Filled my lungs with salty ocean water.
The wind is humbling.
* * *
The past few years, reporting in this country has also been humbling, in its own agonizing way. As a journalist, straddling the ever-widening gulf between people, it can feel like you’re being pulled apart limb by limb.
Before the storm hit, I’d spent the day interviewing voters as they cast early ballots. I found little, if any, consensus. Mostly anger, frustration, fear.
But in the dim morning light, as I surveyed the wreckage of my home, my friend and neighbor sidled up to me. “God was so mad at all our fighting over politics,” she said, “he sent us a tornado.”
Could it be true? I thought about how just minutes after the storm sucked off much of my roof, spitting it out down the block, our neighbor, the quiet one with the Donald Trump bumper sticker, ran over to check on us. My other neighbor, a self-described atheist liberal, was stepping over downed power lines in the dark to come retrieve me and my son and shuttle us somewhere safe.
And it didn’t stop there. Neighbors, strangers — regardless of the lawn signs and the flags and the bumper stickers — now had something bigger: a neighborhood to restore. A community to care for. People were hurting, and the only way to heal was to come together.
I’ve never prayed a day in my life. But when the groups came to pray with me, I prayed. I prayed with Baptists. I prayed with evangelical Christians. I prayed with Anglicans.
I did it because it brought me peace to be with others. To accept the help and lean on community. It seemed the only thing that made us all feel better was to care for one another. To set everything else aside and work toward putting the wind–torn world back together.
My neighbor was right. At the height of what felt like insurmountable division in this country, the winds came.
It was time to stop fighting. It was time to rebuild.