It’s two years post tornado and one year after I promised myself I was done writing about the tornado. But I’m fickle and I promise not to write about it again! (Unless I do …)
A while back I registered the kids for the Joplin Memorial Fun Run. Molly is four, so I envisioned that Emily (8) and David (10) would run out ahead and Keith and I would walk/slow run with the Mollster. Ha.
I hadn’t told Molly those plans.
She’s trained for the run for weeks. This mostly involved sprinting the loop in my home from kitchen, to family room, to living room, and back – again and again and again. A couple days before the run we bought her new sneakers. They instantly became magic sneakers. You remember the type – the ones that made you run faster than ever before.
She was ready.
And it wasn’t a walk with her parents that she was ready for. That girl ran the whole mile with a huge smile on her little face. It was awesome. (But far from leisurely.)
The race wasn’t just about running though. It was a memorial to the people who lost their lives in the tornado two years ago. There was a sign hanging at the beginning of the race and it had the name of each of those 161. When my exuberant racers arrived, Molly saw the sign and, assuming it was a list of the racers, asked, “Mommy, where’s my name!? Am I on there?” If she hadn’t been so excited about racing she may have wondered why it took me a moment before answering her.
“No, baby girl, those are the people who died in the tornado and we’re running today to remember them.”
And then my mind swirled with the rest of the answer …
Had the rotation been slightly different …
Had the walls twisted a bit more …
Had the ceiling been blown away over that closet …
Then the names on that list could have included my Molly and Emily and Keith. So close; they were so close.
In the past two years we’ve made the decision not to live in the land of “what if’s” because that can be life freezing and maybe even disrespectful to the people who did lose someone they love. But the sign with the names (and the t-shirts that read “Running in memory of my Granny”) spoke of those whose loved ones couldn’t get into a safe place, whose ceilings collapsed and whose walls fell. And I grieve with them for their loss with awareness that the happy ending to my tornado story could make their grief more powerful.
Because their loved ones were so close too – so close to safety, to shelter, to survival.
None of us will forget the storm that hit Joplin on May 22, 2011. My family and I may have decided that the storm doesn’t define us but we would be kidding ourselves to say it hasn’t changed us.
Because when I remember, it reverberates once again through my soul – life is precious, time is fleeting, and the people we love are so vulnerable and so fragile.
When faced with the memory of that day, we will do what we’re left here to do.
We will savor.
We will strap on our magic sneakers and run.
God bless the people whose story ended differently. Hopefully they have found some peace.