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Sunday, January 20, 2008

All the Days of my Life

Not too many songs can make me cry, but David Bowie's "Days" does (Bet you werent' expecting that lol). Such a simple song that I used to hear play on slow nights working at The Home Depot. To me, it's such a sad song, yet happy at the same time. It takes me back to the first day I can remember being conscious of what was going on in the world and up to the present. The struggles, the hard times, the deaths of friends and loved ones, and those special, brief moments in my life where I felt so happy it seemed euphoric. There are so many times I should have probably have passed away and yet I'm still here. Bullets missing me by feet, hitting trees on both sides of me from a drive by shooting, while I was on recess just being a kid in South Texas...only 6 years old. I realized, at that point in time, that the world wasn't what I thought it was and the word "evil" was put into an understandable perspective. I've had numerous other close calls as well since then.

I couldn't remember the time I cried prior to the May 4th weekend, now it seems like a regular thing for me since then. The May 4th Chapter in the Storms of 2007 DVD, will make me lose it every time that song starts playing. That night changed me as a chaser and as a human being. I still can't imagine what those residents still go through to this day and it angers me that people in power are doing so little for them.

The night of May 4th, for months and months, brought mental torture upon myself and a roller coaster ride full of emotions. I couldn't sleep thinking about what more I could have done, then slept all of the time not wanting to remember any of it. Nightmares almost nightly, the same one over and over. I had to seek professional help over it, and it has helped me out quite a bit since then. Talking about it has helped me, with those who are willing to listen. Not a day passes, that I don't think about that night while I'm driving on the highway or out running to school. I have gone over it in my head about 10,000 times, and the only thing I wished more of...was being more prepared for a situation like that. All storm chasers, should be, it's something I never really even thought much about, and wished I would have.

I was always reluctant and swore I'd never report to the NWS ever again after one meteorologist publically bashed chasers in the newspapers, and another "questioned" fellow chasers reports because he/she was on the same storm. Not reporting even hail, isn't an option for me any more. Most NWS mets are professional, courteous and welcome reports. Even if they were skeptical, rude, or hung up the phone on me, I'd still report it.

I've become almost obsessed with becoming a better person each day I wake up and helping others more than I have. The night of May 4th played a big role, but since May of 2006, it has been a personal goal. I used to be completely different, those who have known me over the years, know I was the opposite. I'm glad I've recognized the things that matter most to me in this life, my wrongdoings to those I am close to...although late, and am thankful I am allowed to breathe in this world for as long as I have. My life has been covered with pain and regret, and for the last couple of years, I don't regret anything I've ever done, it's all made me empathize with situations and people, and it has sent me on a quest to become the person I should be.

Storm chasing helped spark this obsession and it's a prime example of why I enjoy those relaxing summer days. Days most would never chase, when weak thunderstorms evolve, and I'm alone in a field, not a soul in sight for miles and miles. It's something that keeps my mental health up to par when things are going well or not going so well. I'd be ok without chasing, it's just something I rather do than other hobbies I guess. Nothing beats those solo days where you just sit in the same spot for an hour or two, and watch the life cycle of a thunderstorm.

I drive by soccer moms and business people day in and day out, people always in a hurry to do something in the metro, and wonder if they've ever witnessed how beautiful mother nature can be. Sometimes it seems so magical on those peaceful mammatus sunsets evenings, loaded with constant anvil crawlers, cg's and a tint the rain leaves on landscapes, enchancing those Western Kansas golden wheatfields in June. They'll probably never get to see breathtaking structure like May 22nd of last year, or even a tornado, and I'm sure a town being destroyed in their own home state was forgotten shortly after they heard about it.

Funny how just a simple David Bowie song on a Sunday morning, can make myself remember everything, even memories I'd had temporarily forgotten...and make me appreciate the little things in life or even the things I do not care for.

I long for that annual spring smell I've sometimes awoken to on a rainy, overcast April morning. That smell..derived from an MCS that has just trekked over 250 miles... on it's nonstop journey overnight, only to surrender to inhibition, as the sun rises. It's just around the corner.


Anita said...

Great post.
I, for one, am extremely thankful for chasers. I might not be here today if not for you guys.
Officials aren't doing a whole lot for us, that's true, but we're Kansans - we're really good at "doing" for ourselves...
I don't think there is a day goes by that I don't wish for my little yellow house back, or my mom's house that I grew up in, or for the town I grew up in. I had memories on every street of that little town... and now I can never go home again.
But we're safe, and we're rebuilding, and while it will never be the same, it will be good again.
I hope you're doing ok. Come down sometime and talk to people. We're really doing well. It might help. :)

DM said...

Hey Anita,

Did you get a replacement Storms of 2007 DVD yet? Sorry the first one was broken...

Yeah, I'm sure it's really hard to not have those things you miss or used to have, but you at least have your family there, and things will slowly go back to normal. Just hang in there, and things will start to get better.

I'm doing fine, I've never been happier in my life and am slowly reaching my goals. I just need to be reminded of how lucky I am, so that I will take nothing for granted.

Saturday, March 1st is "Project Greensburg" in Pratt at the community college in the auditorium. We're still working out what time to show it, but it will be after 5 p.m. because something else is going on there until then. I hope to see you and as many of your fellow residents as possible.

Hopefully, we can raise some money for you guys and get a check to your town quickly. What do you recommend donating it too that will actually GET to the town, and would really help you guys out?

I was thinking of setting up a college fund for the young children in the town, but I'm not sure how that would work, or if it's possible.

Take care and I hope to meet you on March 1st!! And spread the word to your town for those who are interested!!


Anita said...

I'm sure the DVD will be here soon... Thank you so much!

I'm not sure who to give it to, as no one here has seen any of the money donations. As far as we know, it has all gone not to the citizens, but to the city itself. No one seems to know where it's going.
The only people in charge of anything that I trust would be Greensburg GreenTown. They might at least know who to send it to.
All Red Cross donations are sent to a central location and distributed nationally, even if specified "For Greensburg Only".

I hope that you will be advertising in the Greensburg Paper - which is run by the Pratt Paper, so it should be easy for you to do...

I'm sure we will see you on March 1!!

Mark Williams said...

That was a very good post, I read through it with the Bowie vid playing in the background. I couldn't imagine the world without chasers, the types of images and education that I have gotten over the years from all you guys has been wonderful. The NWS people just dont have the passion or hands on approach nearly as much as you guys. Love your blog btw, take care!

Dewdrop said...

Powerful post, Dick! Very nice perspective you offered, and your reflection on the whole situation and how you have been transformed is beautiful!

Anonymous said... and I both know how an event like that "playes" with you. Each individual has to deal with it in their own way....right, wrong, indifferent does not really matter in the end. Because I was there, I totally understood 'all the days of my life"
Dick...your a hell of a man and I am greatful for your friendship. I know it was rough at first but I am thankful.

Michael O'Keeffe said...

Wow Dick very powerful. I remember it taking me a few weeks before I actually realized what happened. I remember sitting in school with horrible flashbacks and not being able to focus on anything, but that night. The Storms of 2007 was when it really got to me when I saw those pictures and the people that didn't make it through it I cried a bit. I remember feeling guilty for weeks after thinking I could have helped I could have saved. I felt like an idiot because I was excited to see the tornado and I felt so dumb for not being more understanding as to what was happening. I still look back on that night and even though I may be too young to fully comprehend the disaster that occurred that night it will always be stuck in the back of my mind and the people will be in my heart.

Michael O'Keeffe

DM said...


Sounds good, we just want to make sure it benefits you guys, and every dollar is given to you guys. We will see you on Saturday, March 1st in Pratt!!! One more thing, do you think people will need rides there? I was thinking of renting a bus and driving to and from Pratt.


Thanks, there are a lot of NWS employees who do storm chase, and a lot are educated (and know their storm stuff well), but there are always going to be a few bad apples anywhere you go. My favorite office is Topeka's, they are very involved with storm chasers, and Jennifer Stark, their WCM, is very nice and knowledgeable.

Thanks Dew! I write blogs like this all the time, but I don't ever publish them.

Lanny, (anonymous)

Thanks man, I read your blog about me, and I appreciate it. You know first hand how that night went, and I know you've felt the exact way after talking with you for hours on end about it. It's not an easy task to not second guess and to not analyze every decision made that night, but in reality, there's nothing we can do about it now, and I have no regrets about what we did ...we did all we could.


I guess you are just like any other chaser that night...we had no idea that things would turn out the way they did, or happen as fast as they did. We passed you guys north of Protection there (you guys were smart and stopped as the Greensburg funnel was making its way down) and if I would have known what I know now, I wouldn't have taken that muddy road. It's natural to feel guilty about that night (like we all do), and the full effect of the ordeal didn't hit myself at first either. It all seemed like a dream. At least now, you can prepare yourself for the next time (hopefully not, but it's never out of the question) and will have a little more knowledge of what to do as well. You could be doing it all over again in just a couple of months...and in the worst case scenario, here in Johnson county where we both live. (And JoCo has yet to see a significant tornado here in over 25 years) Darin, affecting him just as much btw, took in on himself to take a first responder class, so at least one of us will know what to do if it ever happens again.

It's probably the worst feeling I have ever had in the world.. feeling totally helpless and clueless of what to do in a tragedy such as May 4th. I know this...we'll be taking with us a first aid kit, saws, fire extinguishers, flashlights and gloves next time.

P.S. If any of you guys want to volunteer for "Project Greensburg" we might need a little extra help.


David Drummond said...

I'm still kicking myself that we called it quits after the storm south of that died off, rather than go after that developing one to the north. The one that became the Greensburg storm.

That said, and we have talked about this a lot, you know I completely understand the feelings after my experiences in Hallam, NE. The last time before Greensburg an entire community was wiped out I believe. 4 years later and I still think about that night A LOT! I do try an prepare being an ex firefighter/first responder, but you never can truly prepare for a biblical sized event such as this.

The one thing the Hallam experience taught me is that you as a chaser being there that night, now have a special bond with those in that community. You will forever be bonded with them from that night forward.

Steve Miller TX said...

That was a very profound, honest, and thought-provoking piece. Nicely done. Bravo.

Anonymous said...

wow...I can't even imagine how that would have been that night. That is such a powerful post. It really speaks to me. It seems as though people forget about things so easily. People probably forgot about it two weeks after it happened. However, for the people that lived there, and the people that chased that storm, Im sure they will never forget.


eyestothesky said...

First time to the plains for me was last may, we drove by Greensburg and so many thoughts went through my head. I don't know what I would have done or felt if I would have been one of the chasers out there that night.
It did change my goals for future chasing, training with sert is one of them so i can be a first responder and know how to help if i am needed.
You should publish more blogs as you can see how much it has inspired and effected people.
I am a new reader to your blog and if you don't mind I would like to add to my links on my blog.
Jess.. :-)
Cloud Stalker

eyestothesky said...

By the way I was there for may 22nd
and it was there i had an epiphany.
That day changed my life forever, I have never in my life seen anything so beautiful.

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