The Paradox of Storms

by Cindy Clark

(SEARCY, AR) I watched the videos of the Moore, Oklahoma tornado this morning. How surreal to watch such a horrible thing... and remain calm in my seat in front of my computer.

How heart-numbing to watch and realize at those moments in the video, so many people’s lives were being changed forever and ever. I cannot imagine my own emotion, were I to find myself in the place the residents of Moore find themselves today.

My mother can though.

In the early ’50s, my mother — along with the entire town of Judsonia, Arkansas — were forever marked with scars from a tornado that, quite literally, wiped the town off the face of Arkansas for a time. There were no sophisticated computer weather trackers in those days. The only predictors were the skies...and they did not give a fellow a lot of warning before the storm hit.

Many people lost their lives. Many people lost property.

Survivors lost their ability to live in peace when the clouds would darken in the future. My mother was one of those people.

When she was young, mom once weathered a tornado huddled in the cab of an old pick-up truck. The truck was pitched from side to side, shattering the windshield. I have heard the story many times. I can’t imagine it.

Years later, her experiences had a significant impact on my life. At the first clap of thunder or the first darkening of the sky, mom would come to school and take me home. We quite literally spent the equivalent of days of time in a storm cellar. I tease and say that I was like a mole when I was little because I was underground so much. Our neighbor, Mr. Clay Hart, had a cellar and he let in anyone and everyone until there was no space left.

I can remember nights when there would be 30 or more people in that cellar. Oh, those nights when I was awakened at two o‘clock in the morning and taken to the cellar! Finally, my mom and dad built a cellar in our back yard. At least we got back to bed sooner once the storms passed.

In my mind, storms are awful — but wonderful. It is hard to put into words. I’ll try though. I can “feel” storms coming. I know everyone can, but I feel them so strongly. There is some kind of heightened excitement, some special “energy” in my mind and heart when a storm approaches.


The dark skies intrigue, excite and sometimes scare me. There is something in the wind that precedes a storm which makes me just want to run and run! When the storm hits, I want to be very still so it won’t “see me” and will pass me by.

My childhood memories of storms are ones of excitement and happiness. You see, when there were storms we would have lots of people at our house. My cousins would come.

It was usually very warm and — between cellar times — we would play. If the storms were at night, lots of people would bring coffee cakes and treats. Mom would make coffee and sometimes we’d all eat supper together and watch for the storms. It was like a big party to me and I’d always get a little happy when I would hear Momma say “There’s a chance of storms.”

I was too young and too ignorant to understand the deep well of hurt and fear these people were drawing from on those nights. It might be the reason I still have these good memories about it all is because we were always safe.

There is the paradox.

I doubt anyone from Moore or Joplin, Judsonia, or any town which has experienced such a raging storm is going to feel the way I did.

The survivors will, however, form bonds and friendships from this. There will be stories of inspiration and tighter feelings of community once this is over.

I grew up in one of those communities.

Those horrific storms never broke the people. My prayers are for Moore and Shawnee today — and all those who are experiencing their own private storms — and I am grateful for those who rushed me to safety time and time again because they were trying to protect me.

My Momma already called me today. “Watch these storms!” she says.

“I am, Momma, and I love you Momma.”

May 21, 2013

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plate 2. Cindy Clark, Searcy, Arkansas.


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Photo credits: All March 21, 1952 photos courtesy of James M. Skipper (originally taken by W. Irving Skipper. Photo of Cindy Clark courtesy of Cindy Clark.

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Cindy Clark

People of the Hills

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