“I guess that’s enough for one night. I think it’s about bedtime for the young’uns, don’t you Susannah?”
As Susannah started to answer, they heard a very strong wind blowing outside and, more than that, a tremendous noise like nothing they’d ever heard before. “Stay here, Susannah, with the children. I’ll go see what it is.” Clem stepped out on the front porch, and with just enough light left in the sky he saw it in the distance heading toward them. A twister! Clem ran inside calling, “Susannah, get the children in the root cellar! Now! It’s a twister! I’ll get little Jeff and you get the other two.” He scooped up little Jeff who was still half-asleep, and with one hand he shoved the rocking chair out of the way of the trap door and yanked it open. Susannah was holding Ruth and tugging on Thomas to make him move more quickly. “Move children! Now!” Susannah more or less pushed Thomas in the cellar, and she and Ruth almost slid down the short flight of steps. Clem with little Jeff jumped in after them and pulled the trap door shut.
No sooner had the trap door slammed shut than they heard the most awful noises above them. It sounded and felt like the whole world was coming apart! Every set of eyes in the cellar was large and round and filled with fear as they felt a shaking and tearing above them! Clem and Susannah were praying individually. “Lord, protect us from harm. Watch over us, oh, Lord. Keep the children safe.”
Suddenly, it was over. The quiet, in contrast, seemed almost as loud as the noise. “I think it’s over, Susannah. Let me see if I can get the trap door open. Here, hold little Jeff.” Clem tried to get the trap door open with one hand and then with two, but it wouldn’t budge. He put his shoulder against it and it moved a little but still wouldn’t open. “Susannah, I’m gonna need your help to get this open. There must be something over it keepin’ it from openin’.”
“Thomas, here, hold little Jeff and keep holding Ruth’s hand while I help your Pa.”
Clem and Susannah put as much force against the overhead trap door as they could, and finally it slowly opened. Clem stepped out first and looked around. The house was gone! Completely gone, leaving only the foundation and most of the chimney! The noise they’d heard was their house being broken apart and swept away! “Susannah, come up but leave the children for now.”
“They won’t stay in this dark cellar by themselves, Clem. You may as well help me get them out now.” Little Jeff was passed up to Clem and then Ruth. Thomas came next. When Susannah’s head came out of the cellar and she saw the destruction, she cried, “No, Clem! No! No! No!” She looked around and saw nothing but the chimney. She began to dart here and there, crying and covering her face with her hands. “No, this can’t be happening! No! No! I won’t believe it.”
Clem came to her and tried to put his arms around her, but she wouldn’t let him. She was on the verge of becoming hysterical. She finally fell to her knees and covered her fact with her hands, moaning and sobbing. Clem went to his knees and pulled her to him, and she finally let him hold her. “We’re alright, Susannah, and all of the children are fine.” As darkness closed in around them, Clem was holding Susannah to his chest, surrounded by their three sobbing, frightened, young children.
Susannah cried for a while with Clem and her family around her. Clem had learned that sometimes when Susannah cried it was best just to hold her until she calmed down. He decided this was one of those times. Reasoning with her now wouldn’t get through to her. That could come later.
“Pa, where’s our house?” asked the always curious Thomas.
“Let’s wait a little while to talk about that, son. Why don’t we all move over to the fireplace to try to be more comfortable? Come on, children.” He pulled Susannah to her feet and helped her to sit and lean back on the rocks of the fireplace. It wasn’t cool like most nights in April, but instead it was warm, sultry and muggy. The sky was cloudy and a little rain was still falling, making the darkness seem even more ominous.
Susannah took off her shawl and wrapped little Jeff in it and held him close to her. Ruth snuggled under her mother’s arm and sat as close as she could to her. Thomas sat with his Pa. “Pa, what happened?” Thomas whispered.
“I guess this is the first twister you ever saw. It’s --.”
Susannah interrupted sharply, “I don’t think now is the time for that.”
“I’m sorry, Susannah. I wasn’t thinkin’.”
“I -- I can’t talk right now, Clem, please. Later. My children don’t even have a place to sleep tonight.” Tears spilled over again.
“We’ll look around and see what we can find.” They stumbled on two blankets that were still mostly dry. He spread one blanket over her, little Jeff and Ruth. He threw the other one over Thomas and himself.
“We may as well try to get some sleep. We’ll have a lot to do tomorrow.” They were all in such a state of shock that it was some time before the children dozed off. Susannah and Clem couldn’t sleep at all and sat awake all night talking.
“Clem, what’ll we do? All the hard work we’ve – you especially – put into our house! Why? Why does this happen to us?
“I know, Susannah. It hurts me, too, to see it all swept away in a second of time. If we don’t trust God, we can’t make it. I believe this is a trial He’s allowin’ us to go through to grow our faith.”
“I’m trying, Clem. Help me.”