Why was our Monday morning so much different?

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The tragedies that befell West Liberty and Henryville barely skirted Shelby County. Why were they chosen and not us?

By Steve Doyle

We in Shelby County awoke Monday morning warmed by the pure, serene blanket of Currier & Ives-caliber snow.
We roused to the joy that we could have a day away from school to frolic in the not-so-cold stuff, to embrace the beauty of winter without its treachery, to enjoy a postcard from a departing season.
It was just sort of elegantly pastoral and winterfully wonderful, wasn’t it?
Did you go walking in our winter wonderland?
Or did you curse it all because it caused disruption to your morning routine, created a slickened mess on your particular road or left your electricity blinking an incorrect time on the clock?
Or did you like me bow your head in a prayer of thanks for its blessing?
There was a calm and peace to that snowfall that more than anything spoke of the grace of the Lord and the serendipity of life.
If you don’t agree, just take a look a few miles north or a few miles east or a few miles south and see how you feel about it all.
Folks in Henryville, Ind., and West Liberty had snow, too, but there was very little beautiful and exciting about it. School already was out, and so was the electricity for thousands.
And there was most certainly nothing peaceful.
No, there is no peace when your home is a pile of sticks, when a loved one has lost her legs or his life, when a grandchild is found flung in a field by the simple fury of a random spring storm.
And it’s in that word, “random” – uttered often by my fourth-grader – that lies the ultimate message in all of this for me.
We in Shelby County were randomly blessed to have been spared by the fury and embraced by the wonder, and as long as I live, I never will understand fully why.
Sure, some of you in our southern extremes were pelted and spiked by large and furious hailstorms on Friday evening. Maybe you have holes in your roof, your siding, your gutters…maybe your windows were broken.
More of you awakened Monday to find all that beautiful snow was heavy and wet and had caused power outages that lasted into the middle of the day.
Yes, those were hassles.
Yes, those were nothing.
We in Shelby County were spared in the velvet hand of mercy as the storms darted north of us and south of us, cutting their deadly furrows across the landscapes of two states.
The images are overwhelming, the stories heartbreaking and the serendipity inconceivable.
I understand weather and nature and how fronts collide and cause catastrophe. I understand how some people are better prepared, some communities better organized. I can understand what happened.
I just can’t understand why it happened to someone else and not to me.
Can you?
If you believe everything happens for a reason and that God ordains all, then can you grasp why the lives of folks in New Pekin and Paintsville were chosen to be left in ruins and yours was not?
Believer though I am, I’m just not that smart, intuitive or connected to be able to grasp that divine process.
The wind blows another way, and those hailstones could have been funnel clouds not tapping on our roofs but using them for Frisbees.
That discomfort of the visit of an insurance adjustor could be replaced by the horror of a visit from death itself.
Twenty miles one way, 50 miles another.
Those are the distances that decided how Friday evening went for us. For those in Henryville and West Liberty, it was a matter of yards and blocks.
Yet, some were unaffected and others were lying in their yards or the lot of a nearby business. Some would rise and move along; too many never would move again.
All of us who have lived more than the 5 minutes of youth have witnessed this over and over. Some of us have been beneath or beside the danger, with the clouds passing overhead and the winds blowing past.
Some suggest this is just good luck. But if luck truly is the marriage of preparation and opportunity, there is no luck in this at all.
You can be only somewhat prepared for devastation, and you certainly don’t embrace the opportunity.
Hurricane season in Florida would bring fear and even paranoia to those in coastal regions, but I’ve seen huge storms come right to the brink of the nearby shore and then veer off north, as if taking an exit on I-95.
Tornadoes dance across the floor of our country in what seems to be an ever-growing cha-cha. The rhythm is constant, but the downbeat never seems to arrive.
On a February night in 1998, dozens of funnel-laden clouds blew over the top of my small home in Central Florida.
They stopped just west and took the lives of dozens in a single mobile-home park. They bounced a couple of miles south and grazed the neighborhood where my precious son and daughter lived.
They split east and west and took more lives in suburban neighborhoods and an RV park.
The storms did all this dancing, and you begin to wonder if this isn’t really a game of musical chairs, that we all are dancing around those chairs, and, sooner or later, the music will stop and our seat will be gone.
The moral here is that life is just a lovely little dance that brings with its beautiful snowfalls, autumn color shows and warming, greening summer sun the potential of a storm cloud swooping from anyplace and blowing away our serenity.
We never will understand why someone is chosen to feel the ill side of that wind.
We just have to go on believing that there’s a reason.