It was seven p.m., when I finally arrived at the Pinnacle Auction House in Little Rock, Arkansas. I was hired to auction off some fine and rare collectables that were acquired from a prominent family in the city.
My wife Elaine begged me not to go to work that night.
“Joe, something just doesn’t feel right, please don't go.”
She always had a knack of knowing when danger was in the air, and I never really listened to her.
“Elaine, nothing is going to happen to me, I'll make sure I park in a lighted area. I'll be fine.”
I kissed her and my daughter Krista goodnight and off I went….providing for my family.
The night air was hot and muggy, but that's normal when thunderstorms start to roll in. I parked my blue Ford F150 pickup under a street lamp and proceeded into the building. A crowd had already started forming in the lobby waiting for the auction room to open.
I overheard a couple of older gentlemen talking amongst themselves.
“Yeah, I haven’t seen so many severe thunderstorms in such a short period of time, not since I was six. I don’t like it not one bit.”
“I agree, something is happening to our weather.”
I walked past them and chuckled to myself, “small talk, couldn’t they have picked a better subject than the stupid weather.”
I unlocked the auction room doors and proceeded toward the podium. All of the items up for auction were sorted by value amount, from the least to the most valuable. As the crowd started taking their seats in anticipation of finding a great deal, the announcer started welcoming everyone and requested that all cell phones be turned off during the auction. Thirty minutes had passed and several items had been auctioned off when a loud clap of thunder shook the building, rain started pouring down, and tornado sirens started to wail off in the distance warning us of the impeding danger.
Elaine’s last words to me rushed through my head, “Joe, something just doesn’t feel right,” as we all headed toward the basement to take cover from Mother Nature’s wrath of fury. The storm lasted only five minutes, but that was long enough… When I walked outside to see what type of damage the storm had created, everything looked normal.
I let out a huge sigh of relief and muttered under my breath "Thank God, Elaine's feeling of dread didn't come true."
Then, all of a sudden off in the distance, fire and police sirens started flooding the night. My heart sank. I immediately turned on my cell phone to call Elaine; no answer. I checked my phone log, I had three missed calls from her and one voice message.
Her voice rang out with fear. “Joe, a tornado is headed straight for our house, Oh MY God, Joe.”
I could hear glass breaking and what sounded like two-by-fours snapping in half. My heart started pounding out of my chest, I could feel the blood rush from my face. The feeling of danger my wife Elaine had wasn’t for me, it was for her and Krista. I jumped into my truck and sped towards the screaming sirens in the night as I continued listening to the voice mail.
I could hear Krista in the background yelling, “Daddy, Daddy, I’m scared, help us.”
Then the phone went dead.
Tears started streaming down my face uncontrollably, my whole body went numb. My chest tightened and I felt as if I could no longer breathe. Visions of Elaine and Krista screaming, crying out in fear bombarded my mind. I started praying, imploring God to let my family be okay. It took only seven minutes to reach our neighborhood, but it seemed like an hour. When I finally arrived ambulances, police cars, and fire trucks were blocking the road, not letting anyone through.
“I LIVE ON DOGWOOD LANE, MY WIFE AND DAUGHTER ARE THERE,” I yelled, begging for entrance.
The policeman hung his head. “You can’t get your truck through, you'll have to walk.”
I parked my truck, and ran as fast as I could, weaving in and out of debris that littered the neighborhood. I was in a daze; it was like a nightmare that I couldn’t wake up from, but it wasn’t a dream, the nightmare was real.
"If only I had listened to Elaine," went barreling through my mind.
The further I made it into the neighborhood the worse the damage and the darker the night became. The only light I had was on my cell phone guiding me toward my family. I fell to my knees when I reached the driveway leading up to what used to be our home. The one place that was supposed to keep us safe and protect us from the elements was now a death trap. The roof and walls had all collapsed, trapping my family inside.
I franticly started yelling “ELAINE, KRISTA," in hopes that God had performed some type of miracle and spared my family.
I heard a faint cry coming from what used to be the hallway. I immediately started tearing my way through the rubble calling out their names. When I finally reached them, Elaine was lying on top of Krista protecting her from the storm's wrath.
“It’s going to be okay, baby. I’ll get you out of here,” I cried.
I reached down to pick Elaine up off Krista; her body was limp and cool to the touch. I knew then she was gone. I held her close to my chest, rocking her back and forth, holding her ever so tight when the statue she gave me on our wedding day fell out of her left hand. My heart shattered when the words inscribed on the statue engulfed my memory. ----- 'No one knows what tomorrow holds, so make the most of every moment together. Love you, Love me.' My heart was raw, raw with pain that I had never felt before; the loss of my life, my partner, my only love.
Krista started crying “Daddy, Daddy.”
Sobbing, I picked Krista up in my arms and held her close against my chest.
"It's okay baby," I murmured as bittersweet feelings of love lost and love saved flooded my entire being.
The dawn was breaking over the horizon, and a new day and new way of life was forming.
Karen Beth (c) 2012