I was back home in Ithaca for summer, “babysitting” my brother by watching TV alone upstairs, when disaster arrived in the form of a rainbow TV screen with dire words sprinting across the bottom. My eyes jumped from word to word. Ithaca had been issued a tornado warning. The tornado would arrive in Ithaca at 8:30 p.m. I looked at my watch. It was 8:29 p.m.Oh my God.Ithaca had suddenly become tornado alley, despite the fact that in the 20 years I have lived there, never once had there been a twister. Apparently, when I had gone away for college, the president ordered Oklahoma’s weather patterns to be switched with Ithaca’s. So, I thought of only one thing – the basement. I leapt out of my chair and sprinted downstairs, only to find my brother lying paralyzed with the same deer-caught-in-tornado-headlights-look on the TV room couch. I had to think quickly. Do I ignore my helpless 12-year- old brother, grab up the bottled water and flashlight and dive into the basement, each twenty-year old woman with arrested development and prepubescent boy for her or himself? Or, do I act like the mature 20-year-old I really am and comfort my brother in the face of a tornado’s hell-fire winds?As I skittered into the room, breathless and heart pounding, my hair frizzed and scattered in anticipation of the unstoppable winds to come. I came upon the solution – play it cool.”Oh, hey Dave,” I said, strutting into the TV room, channeling every grain of the little strength I had left into not soiling my pants. I opened a drawer and suppressed a child’s scream as I dug for the elusive flashlights I knew it was withholding. How could I survive a tornado without a Duracel-powered heavy-duty flashlight? My brother remained mute and flipped to the weather channel. I tossed him a flashlight and guffawed nervously as the little red cell moved directly over Ithaca on the weather map. The weatherman warned us that even once the warning passed, a tornado watch would continue until 11 p.m. Eleven p.m., I thought. But that’s when Friends reruns air!My brother turned to me with wide eyes and said that he really had to go to the bathroom. We both froze with fear for the thought. What if he were in the bathroom when the tornado came? “Oh,” I said, remembering my pledge to play it cool. “If the tornado comes when you’re in the bathroom I’ll scream.” I immediately imagined the emergency scenario to come – my brother trapped in the bathroom, the tornado roaring down our street, I would yell, “Wipe Dave, wipe! For the love of God, wipe!” I would toss our dog into the basement and dive into it as well, hoping and praying that the bathroom counted as a windowless, internal structure. My brother left for the bathroom. Little did he know that I had to go to the bathroom, too, but wasn’t about to take that kind of risk.When Dave returned, the tornado watch was still in effect. We kept the channels tuned to four stations and were soon on a first-name basis with all of the different weathermen, coming to appreciate each one for their unique advice. Tim warned us that if we were outside, we should get inside. Bob said that if we were in a mobile home, we should get to a place that wasn’t a mobile home. Trevor said that if we had to be outdoors, that we should flee to a culvert, which I soon found out from Webster’s is a “covered channel that carries water or cabling underground.” Sheila recommended getting low to the ground and putting your hands on your head in the event a tornado should hit your home. I relished this advice. If there’s one thing that can save me in winds of death filled with hail, debris and trailer trash, it’s my own hands. Between weathermen, Billy-Jean from “Survivor Stories” said that when a tornado hit her house, it sounded like two-ton trucks were colliding. This led Dave and me to quickly mute the television every time we heard a slight rumbling outside, because if a tornado was as loud as two-ton trucks colliding, then we probably wouldn’t be able to hear it over the TV. Occasionally, we were misled by sounds within the TV room itself, like the instance when the plastic of a Gatorade bottle popped, sending Dave back to the bathroom and me back to the basement door, dog, water and heavy-duty flashlight in hand.Between these close calls, Dave and I practiced our fetal clenching positions and hand-to-head motions, and were still doing so at 11 p.m. when the tornado watch ended and my parents arrived back home. As we clutched our flashlights to our heads and curled – “Curl tighter Dave! Tighter!”- my mom inquired as to what we were doing. I stammered about tornadoes attacking, to which she replied that it hadn’t even rained the entire night.”Oh,” I replied. “Then we were doing crunches.”Kaminsky can be reached at lkaminsky@campustimes.org.



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