The next morning, we got up around 8 and got ready. We checked out of our hotel and hit the road.
We stopped to grab some "brunch" around 9:30 and since The Husband and I have a rule about stopping to eat instead of eating in the car on road trips, we were finally back on the road around 10.
I fell asleep. Surprise! I woke up for a minute to kind of adjust how I was sitting and was trying to fall back to sleep when I heard the emergency alert system start buzzing across the radio. The Husband was trying to find another radio station when the station he was scanning through buzzed and woke me up.
I was up and I was not going back to sleep.
Not long after that, we crossed into Oklahoma.
During that time, the DJ on the radio is only talking about the storm. There is no music anymore. Just warnings.
Apparently, there was a tornado sighting and they believe another one will touch down.
Well. Another one did. Near Oklahoma City. Right when we hit Oklahoma City. And according to the DJ, anyone traveling on the 40 West should pull off now and find any of the schools or buildings he was naming off. The police should be shutting down the 40 W because this tornado is a mile wide, and powerful, and it's going to cross the 40 West, and it has the potential to kill.
Except... we're not from Oklahoma City. We don't know where any of these schools are. Our phones were not helpful in regards to the GPS feature. The police are not, in fact, closing the 40 W. And we are still traveling West on the 40.
I start to panic. The Husband is keeping it together like a champ. He's not even flinching. And he's trying to calm me down.
Now it's raining. Hard. And we can barely see in front of the truck. The Husband slows waaaaaay down and we're creeping down the 40. I'm in full on freak out mode while The Husband is telling me we're fine and we'll be okay.
Then we hit the outer band of the tornado and the hail starts.
Then 2 minutes later, it all stops. The rain, the hail. Everything.
My parents are from a place that sees tornados so I know the calm can mean one of two things: It's over or it's about to hit hard.
Thankfully, it was over.
About 30 seconds later, we see the damage.
Overturned semi trucks, smoke in the distance, debris. It's a mess.
Then we passed where it crossed the road. Less than 5 minutes from where we were at.
The tornado had such force and so much debris within it, it had carved out a ditch on the side of the road. And there were cars in the ditch. The Husband looked at me and said "We have to stop. We need to help."
I looked at him and said "Do it. You know what to do, and they'll need help. Do it."
Ambulances and first responders had yet to arrive, but we, along with several other cars, had stopped to try to help. The Husband grabbed his combat first aid kit (he keeps one in his truck at all times), changed his shoes, and took off running. I started digging out blankets and towels and called our family with what little cell reception I could get to tell them we were okay.
After that, I started walking over the brim toward the newly formed ditch when another man who had stopped to help saw me and told me I probably wouldn't want to go any farther. I asked him how bad it was, and all he said was "It's bad." and then walked to the edge of the road.
I decided to take his word for it and wait there. The Husband wasn't far behind the other man and told me I should stay back where I was already at.
I told him someone else had told me the same thing and I asked him if there was anyone to help. He just shook his head and walked toward the truck to put his gear away.
About that time, the paramedics and police had shown up, so The Husband and a few of the other men who had been down in the ditch went back with them to help them mark the locations of the bodies.
There was one person who survived it. He was driving his tractor-trailer when he realized he was about to get hit by the tornado. He tried to back up, but knew he wasn't going to make it. He grabbed a towel and wrapped his head in it so that he could try to save his face from whatever debris was coming. The top of his truck cab peeled back like a sardine can and he remembers feeling like he was being pulled out of his seat belt and then nothing. He woke up in the field about 50 yards from his truck cab and another 50 yards from his trailer bed. He walked away with only a broken nose. Amazing.
The driver trying to salvage some of his belongings.
After a few hours there, we decided it was time to head back out, as there was nothing left to be done.
That day has stuck with me since then. We were less than a mile down the road from where the tornado crossed our highway. 5 minutes. Barely.
The randomness of the whole event has haunted me since then. And has been a big reason why I'm just trying to live, finally.
That day was crazy, to say the least. Which is why when I saw this sign...
I was semi-relieved. We were almost done with our day. Hundreds of miles behind schedule and a little frazzled, but almost done.
We had decided before we started our trip that we were going to stop in Amarillo at the Big Texan Restaurant. I had eaten there many years before on a road trip with my parents, but The Husband heard about it on Man vs. Food when Adam did the challenge they have there.
We figured after a day like we had, we deserved to splurge on some steak and ribs.
After dinner, we jumped back in the truck and tried to make up some lost time. We made it to Albuquerque, NM before stopping for the night.
We had been hoping to make it to Arizona that day, but were exhausted and decided to call it a night around Midnight. We found a hotel and settled in.
Day 3 tomorrow!