Twice in my life, I have experienced a tornado. The first time was in the tub in Iowa, my wife and son gathered with me, towels rolled at our heads, a gallon plastic jug filled with water at our feet, because we were new to flat country and heard and held true that the bathroom was one of the safest places to be when the tornado warning horns went off. We could not see the funnel from our seats on the floor of the tub.
The second time I was alone, standing at a picture window in my hotel room in Minnesota, looking out over a cornfield, the tail of a twister touching down at the far end and seconds later slipping back up into the clouds again. Thunderheads had rolled in over the field, rising rapidly from the hot, moist air to condense when it struck the cooler air high above the darkening field. The rain pelted against the glass. I watched the violent way the dark clouds began to spin. The momentum built; the vortex generated enough strength to push the funnel below the cloud base. It extended like a middle finger, dragging itself in the dirt behind the thunderstorm, tracing its destruction through the field nearly ½ mile away and then, gone.
Last year, in the LA Times, I read of Connie Culp, our nation’s first face transplant recipient. A shotgun blast had left a hole where the middle of her face had been—a face now shattered beyond recognition. Only her upper eyelids, forehead, lower lip and chin had remained. Yet with the successful transplant of a new face she received from a dead woman, Connie received a renewed sense of hope for her life.
We all face our storms, and they do much to build the character that in some may lay dormant for years until called upon, while in others is there from inception—upfront and demanding.
I had Type I Diabetes for 40 years. Most people never knew. I never let on. I never let it get in my way. But I wasn’t able to beat its catastrophic effects on my kidneys. When that organ succumbed, I needed help. To rid my body of the quickly building toxins, my brother donated one of his kidneys. To rid me of the diabetes, a 17-year old I never knew, dead in the middle of the night from a car crash, his parents still grieving yet sensing redemption, gave me his pancreas.
Fears and storms pound us daily.
Mark Twain once remarked, “It is curious that physical courage should be so common in the world and moral courage so rare.” Ten years ago, we witnessed the unquestionable magnitude of physical and moral courage when passengers on the fourth hijacked aircraft on September 11th wrested control from hijackers and crashed their plane, sacrificing their lives, in a field in rural Somerset County, Pennsylvania. They did, as Eleaner Roosevelt had once urged, “ . . . the things you think you cannot do.”
For all of our authors and the characters created in their poetry and prose, storms have been chased and overtaken; fears have been met and defeated.
Michael J. Brien