2016 Team Writing Contest Winner: Student Team

by Dorsey Ducharme, Catherine Clark, Hayden Gee, Liza Miller, and Lee Kennon

“Take Shelter Now,” read the emergency alert that popped up onto my phone. I knew that we were expecting some unusual weather, but I didn’t know to what extent. Being home alone and skeptical of the situation, I somewhat disregarded this notification and proceeded to go outside to see if I could see any abnormalities in the sky that would hint at extreme weather conditions. Besides wind, everything seemed normal. As I walked up my front steps to go back inside, I turned around as I heard my mom’s car careening down the driveway faster than I had ever seen before. Now, I started to panic. I rushed inside and waited for my mom and brother, James, who had been riding in the car with her, to get inside also.

They arrived a few seconds later. My mom’s face looked as if she had just seen the eye of a tornado. “The storm isn’t supposed to hit us for another fifteen minutes,” my mom told my brother and me frantically, “which gives us time to fill up the bathtub and gather flashlights.”

Right after she stopped speaking, I could hear the trees swaying back and forth and the leaves blowing around as the wind picked up speed.

“Harley!” I yelled, “We left Harley outside! Someone needs to get him!”

“I will,” said my mom, “you guys fill up the bathtub and get flashlights.” My mom rushed outside and started whistling for Harley.

James and I scurried into the bathroom, put the plug in the rusty drain, and turned the water on. As we were leaving the bathroom, the lights flickered. This is when I really started to panic. I sprinted to the storage closet where we kept the flashlights, grabbed as many as I could hold, and rushed them into my laundry room. We don’t have a basement, and the laundry room is the only room on the first floor that doesn’t have windows. As I dumped all of the flashlights onto the washing machine in the laundry room, one slipped, nailing my toe. It began to ache and throb immediately.
~Dorsey Ducharme
My toe aching and throbbing, I ran back to the bathroom where I saw James was shaking. He had a phobia of extreme weather; it made him very nervous—anxious and uneasy. However the storm wasn’t all that was making him nervous; he had cut his hand on the rusty bathtub faucet while frantically trying to run the tub. I heard my mom come back into the house, and I felt relief knowing she and Harley were safe. She and Harley came into the laundry room with James and I, and I ran back to the storage closet to grab James several Band-Aids and some Neosporin to ease the pain of his hand. I suddenly heard the high-pitched whistle of the tornado alert on the television; it was getting closer and closer. I exited the storage closet and was making my way across the hallway back to the bathroom when I felt our entire house shake and heard the piercing sound of windows shattering. I stopped dead in my tracks, and turned 180 degrees only to see that seven or eight windows had been broken entirely due to the high-speed winds that were hitting the house. I began to panic. Usually, I was calm in these types of situations, and I liked to stay calm for James’s sake when storms occurred. However, I had never seen anything like this before. I could hear James crying and Harley whimpering. I didn’t know what would happen next, but I knew it wouldn’t be good.
~Catherine Clark
Before something happened I decided it would be a good idea to return to the laundry room, where I knew it was safe. We had always designated the laundry room as the place we would go during a bad storm, because it was on the first floor and it did not have any windows. I grabbed the Band-Aids and Neosporin for James, slammed the door shut, and sprinted back to the bathroom. I flung the bathroom door open, ran inside, and just as my hand pressed the door shut, I heard a loud crash followed by the sound of more breaking glass. What just happened? It sounded to me like a car had just crashed into the side of our house. My curiosity got the better of me, so I cracked the door and peered outside. My heart began to ache as I saw the pine tree that had fallen through our roof just across the hall from where I was standing. My heart ached even more when I realized that the tree had fallen on my room, ruining all of my possessions. The wind began to whistle through the new gaping hole in the side of our house, and I watched as all of my belongings were swept up into the storm. All of my books, all of my photos, even my rusty old toy cars that I played with when I was little—all gone with the wind. I felt a tear roll down my cheek.

“Get away from there!” I heard my mom yell.

I turned and faced her and she saw the look on my face.

“Oh gosh, what’s wrong?” she asked.

I could not get any words out. I began to sob uncontrollably right before I heard the terrible sound.
~Hayden Gee
Through the sobbing, I heard the terrible sound I expected only minutes before. I opened the door a bit more to see our neighbor’s car pursuing our house. They had just washed their car that morning and they had pointed it toward the sun, and coincidentally toward our house, so it could dry. Being pushed by the wind, I watched the car barrel into our family room, missing the fireplace. Through the small crack in the door, I saw most of our family pictures lifelessly laying on the ground. My mom grabbed my hand and pulled me back into the laundry room, sitting me next to James. His fear continued to grow because of the constant sound of whistling, blasting, wild wind. I thought about what I could do to help him, but I’m unable to think of anything except comforting him. My mom suggested we sing some song from our childhood as a distraction from the chaos outdoors. Although our voices were quite rusty, we began singing some of James’s favorites: “Apples and Bananas” and “The Candyman.” Although he was distracted for a little while, James continued whining, which made our mom’s heart ache even more, knowing how frightened he still was. Harley joined us. We all sat, staying as calm as we could until the storm passed, whenever that time might come.
~Liza Miller
I could not wait for the storm to pass; it seemed like it never would. “We could be staying in here for a while,” I thought. Harley was shaking and panting, as was James. The storm became softer and more distant, and the crackling and whistling noises from outside settled a bit. We all feared what tragedy might occur next. My mom began to stress about the damages, how we would fix them, and how we would be able to pay to fix them. She also feared that James was going to develop an infection due to the rust that got into his cut. Although the storm was settling, James continued to be extremely anxious and would not stop worrying, shaking, and crying. We stayed in the laundry room all night long. I can’t remember falling asleep, but I woke up cold and confused to the sound of James and my mother hollering, “Help! Help! Help!”  I stepped out of the laundry room into what was left of our house and then outside to the street where they were standing. I realized that an ambulance was headed down the street, and Mom and James were trying to get its attention, directing it to a pile of rubble that was once my neighbor’s house. “What is going on?” I screamed over the sound of the sirens.

“It’s Barbara! She’s stuck somewhere under there, I don’t know if she is alive or if she will make it out,” replied my mother. My heart sank. “That could have been our house,” I thought. This crushed me. Despite hours of rescue efforts, Barbara, like many others, did not make it out alive. All my mother, James, and I could do was hold each other tightly and cry.
~Lee Kennon

photograph by Taylor Thackston
photograph by Taylor Thackston

To read more about the Team Writing Contest, here are the details.

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