March 28, 2000 The Tornado That Took Fort Worth, Texas…

I was traveling West after leaving work at approximately 6:15PM right into the eye of the storm hitting downtown Fort Worth. You see, I often take alternate routes rather than expressways due to not only congestion but also, road construction.

There were an oddly significant numbers of vehicles passing me heading East that day but, since I abhor commercials on my radio, I was listening to my Boston “Don’t Look Back” cassette rather than listening to my FM channels and therefore had NO IDEA what was happening.

That horrific moment that I realized the sunny day behind me had become black would define me. Looking into the distance, I realized that what I had thought was hail was in fact, debris just minutes before my sunroof and windows were blown out of my car!

I quickly threw the car into park and jumped over the side of the Belknap Bridge moments before the debris and glass flew right over the bridge I had parked on hit.

Under the bridge were perhaps fifty children and adults from various walks of life. There were affluent business people along with workers from low to moderate class families and, we were much aware that social or economic backgrounds have no bearing during an Act of God.

You see, I was in the San Franciso earthquake with my twin and our children years earlier and while I’ve never been frightened of a quake prior to that, I suddenly would learn the kindness of strangers who shared their “quake kits” of water, snacks and supplies while stranded with my family.

Fort Worth was not an exception, as I huddled over a strangers child to protect him from the dangers of debris- I realized that in life we are often unprepared for tragedy and have spent 15 years remembering the fear around me and, the redline nature of my group as we “waited out the storm.”

For hours without phone service or, electricity, Fort Worth banded together to reach back and help strangers with wounds and whatever they had to share amongst each other.

I finally located my sister and my son and was eternally grateful that we survived the Fort Worth Tornado and even today, when I hear the warning alarms near my home, think back and recall a day when no one cared what color you were, where you practiced your Religion or how much money you earned. None of that mattered anymore, every barrier was broken and we were were one.

We looked beyond visual variations that fateful day because survival and community forced everyone struggling to believe that protecting the young and the old was far more important that protecting ourselves.

We were all equals and we were all devoted to helping one another. Why then can’t we live this way everyday? I don’t know the answer and perhaps I never will but, I will live my life looking beyond your color, your lifestyle or your Religion and chose instead to treat you as my neighbor and, my friend.

What have you done for a stranger today? How would you react in a tragedy?

Wendy M Wortham
The Pawning Planners