News and Tribune

May 23, 2013

MAY: Simply remembering

Local columnist

The images that began to filter across the media outlets Monday night from Moore, Okla., stirred intense, almost raw memories in my mind and left a hollow, empty feeling in the pit of my stomach.

As I sat riveted to the television, first watching the live cam shots of the skies and then the pictures and footage of the destruction, the feelings and memories and fears became just as vivid as when they were first happening. 

March of 2012. I recall almost frame by frame a clip that had been recorded on a cell phone that was played first on television and then plastered on the Internet. The entire segment wasn’t even a half minute long, but it was long enough to show the devastation of the Henryville Junior-Senior High School. The EF-4 tornado caused extensive damage, not only to buildings, but to the lives and hearts of friends and acquaintances throughout the small community. Many people lost all of the possessions they owned; at least three people lost their lives.

June of 1990. I can still see the looks on the faces of my children as we sat crammed under an office desk in the basement of the house. The deafening noise stays in my head like the reverberations of a bad garage band after their first practice. When the winds had died down in the still darkened, wee hours of the morning on June 3rd, a record 66 tornados had bullied their way up the Ohio River Valley.

My entire being shakes with the growls of three garbage trucks as they left our backyard with most of the debris that had been so abruptly regurgitated from the mouth of the tornado a couple of days later. About midnight one of the many tornados of that night touched down in our backyard, peeling the siding and shingles from our house like the skin from a banana, and leaving our neighbor’s house at the rear of our property looking like an upset box of toothpicks.

But it doesn’t stop there. June of 1966. Our family couldn’t afford a long vacation that summer, so my father planned a weekend get-away to Chicago. We would spend two nights in a motel. He would take us to places that he remembered when he was growing up — his home, his school, the first place he ever worked. He knew an amusement park we could visit. Most importantly, we had tickets to an afternoon Chicago White Sox game.

The Saturday night stay at the motel is forever carved into my memory. The L-shaped motel that we stayed in soon was only an I-shape. My sister, mother and I sat crouched in the bathroom, clinging to the toilet. My dad was in the bathtub — a safety maneuver that to this day I fail to understand. There was no EF scale to measure the velocity of the wind. But the 10-year-old’s fear factor that night was 10 out of 10.

As we approach Memorial Day weekend, these events trigger our memories. Images and etchings tell the historical stories of our lives, but emotions and passions splash colors on the much bigger canvas of life. When we pause to look at life’s picture in its simplest form, certain memories control the whole scene.

Why do we remember the things that we remember? Psychologists and educators tell us that we remember things that we are actively involved in learning, rather than just reading. We remember things for which we carry intense passion and emotion. We will hold on to moments that we understand are bigger than ourselves. 

Take a few moments this weekend to simply remember. Reflect on the people who have made a difference in your direction and outcome. Ponder the circumstances that provided “fork in the road” moments. Look beyond yourself and honor those who have given their all so that you could enjoy freedom today. Recall life’s lessons that are bigger than just you. Lean in closely, look with spiritual magnifying glasses to see the fingerprints of God on the story of your life.


 — Tom May is the Minister of Discipleship at Eastside Christian Church in Jeffersonville. He is an adjunct instructor in the Communications Department at Indiana University Southeast.