May 6, 1965 began as an unusually hot and sunny day in Minnesota but it would go down in meterological history as "The Longest Night".
I was only four years old but I clearly remember the look of relief that flooded my father's face when after rushing out of the house, he saw my brother and myself playing with the other neighborhood children out on the sidewalk. Calmly he told us there was a storm coming and everyone needed to go home right away. Even as he was speaking, we heard the voices of other parents, calling for their children to come home immediately.
I didn't know it at the time but it was a night that would be forever embedded in my mind It was the night that six tornadoes, four of them later estimated to be F4's would rip through the Twin Cities. Three of them would be on the ground simultaneously. It was the first time civil defense sirens had ever been used as severe weather warnings and to this very day, the scream of a civil defense siren sends chills through me and makes me want to run and hide.
We had no basement to speak of. The small root cellar under the kitchen was too small for two adults and two young children to squeeze into. We also had no rooms without windows and there was no downstair's closet. My father quickly decided that our only cover would be the table in our small dining room. After making sure the flashlights and the portable battery-operated radio were in working order, he tuned into WCCO via radio and television, watched and listened. My mother prayed while my brother and I sat in silence listening to the scream of the sirens and the news reports. Did God see us? Would He protect us? Young as I was, these were the questions that went through my mind. Somehow I understood this storm was too big. There was nowhere to run, nowhere to hide. There was nothing anyone could do. No one knew where the tornadoes would hit. The best we could do was take cover and pray. These tornadoes were more powerful than anyone except God and I found myself asking Jesus to keep us safe as well.
Thirteen people died that night. The low-casualty numbers were attributed to people heeding the advanced warning and the continuous updates of WCCO. More than 1,100 homes were damaged and over 400 homes were destroyed. My parents knew a family that barely escaped with their lives when their home collapsed around them. The only portion of the house remaining intact was the corner of the basement where they had sought refuge.
This morning I read:
When the storms of life come, the wicked are whirled away, but the godly have a lasting foundation. Proverbs 10:25 (NLT)
That's what happens in the natural when a tornado strikes. Everything in its path is simply "whirled away". If anything does remain, it is only because it is securely anchored to a deep, strong and firm foundation that cannot be uprooted even by the strong force of the wind.
Upon what are you anchored?
Upon life's boundless ocean where mighty billows roll,
I've fixed my hope in Jesus, blest anchor of my soul.
When trials fierce assail me as storms are gath'ring o'er,
I rest upon his mercy and trust him more.
I've anchored in Jesus, the storms of life I'll brave,
I've anchored in Jesus, I fear no wind or wave,
I've anchored in Jesus, For he hath pow'r to save,
I've anchored in the rock of ages.
He keeps my soul from evil and give me blessed peace,
His voice hath stilled the waters and bid their tumult cease.
My pilot and deliv'rer to him I all confide,
For always when I need him, he's at my side.
He is my Friend and Saviour, in him my anchor's cast,
He drives away my sorrows and shields me from the blast.
By faith I'm looking upward beyond life's troubled sea,
There I behold a haven prepared for me.
Song Lyrics: I've Anchored In Jesus, Lewis E Jones, 1901, Public Domain.
Bible quotation taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation copyright 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois, 60188. All rights reserved.