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Tornado Memories

By Ralph Hood

The Hood family will never forget the night of Nov. 14, 1989, when tornadoes ripped through our then-hometown of Huntsville, Alabama, destroying people and property. Son Brett — then 17 — was missing for almost three hours before we found him at a local hospital. He was cut, bruised,  had a hairline hip fracture, and he spent two nights in the hospital; he survived with only a slight scar on his forehead.

(If I thought that the girls who visited Brett in the hospital would visit me, danged if I wouldn’t hunt up a tornado myself. It reminded me of when my brother Jim was in the hospital at age 18. He had the nurse hook up his daily intravenous drip when girls were visiting because, as he put it, “it looks so dramatic.”)

During the time Brett was missing, I told myself he was merely caught in traffic, but I didn’t really believe it. It was a bad time. Not knowing is not pleasant. I found I could still pray as fervently as ever, when thus motivated. By the time we learned Brett was in the hospital — with only bruises and lacerations — we were actually relieved. At that point I was quite happy to trade a son in the hospital for a son who was missing. (That’s a horrible word, missing.)

When I finally reached Brett’s side I was never so glad to see and talk with anyone in my life. I think perhaps he was even glad to see me, because he didn’t complain about the fuss I made. He didn’t even express disgust when I kissed him on the forehead. Brett suffered some severe pain that night, and it was the first time I’ve gone through that with one of my kids. It was a helpless, horrible experience.

Brett took it better than his mother and I did. Eventually we settled down and realized how very fortunate we were. We lost an 11-year-old car and Brett suffered temporary injuries. Others lost so much more. Our church, pre-tornado, had four buildings. Only three were left, and only one of those was usable. We met in that building the following Sunday, and I, as luck would have it, was scheduled to give the “Prayer of Thanksgiving.”

I did so as follows: “Father, we are thankful today. We are thankful for lost loved ones found and families still intact. We are thankful for hospitals, for the special skills of doctors, nurses and paramedics, and for volunteer workers both skilled and unskilled. And for those who lost loved ones, we are so very thankful for the promise of John 3:16 — ‘That whosoever believeth in him shall not perish but have everlasting life.’

Amen.