Fears must be faced

By Anita Doberman: Columnist

Rome has a nice, mild climate: we usually have four seasons and no extreme weather phenomenons. Growing up, the most I worried about when it came to weather was to make sure that I avoided riding my scooter when it was raining hard.
I never experienced a tornado until I moved to the United States.
Tornadoes were a foreign concept to me. The first time I heard a tornado siren on a military base, I ran outside and was afraid that someone had invaded U.S. soil. My neighbor at the time explained that it was a tornado warning, and thought it was very funny that I didn’t know.
But to me, tornadoes were something out of a fantastic story like the Wizard of Oz, or maybe something that would happen in far away lands like Oklahoma and Texas, maybe Kansas. I didn’t know I was going to marry a military man and actually live in those far away places, so I wasn’t aware of safety measures, sirens, or places to hide in case of a tornado.

My lack of experience, coupled with my anxious tendencies, made me extremely fearful of tornadoes. I quickly became obsessed with checking the Weather Channel if I knew thunderstorms were moving to our area. I forced my children to repeatedly practice getting in the bathtub, all of us plus the two dogs and cat with their leashes to our side. The ‘beep beep beeeeep’ followed by “a tornado warning has been issued for the following counties…” always made me skip a beat and fall into a state of panic.

My husband has tried to tell me not to fear tornadoes, to take precautions but think that statistically the chance of being in a tornado’s path is so low, I shouldn’t obsess over it. The chances of being in a car accident are much higher. He’s right, but I’m also terrified about being in a car accident, so that reasoning didn’t help.

With my husband’s frequent deployments, I try to set a good example for my children and I decided to work on my tornado fear, because my daughters were starting to show signs of following in their mother’s footsteps. I knew on a recent day there was some bad weather nearby, and thought this would be a perfect opportunity to get over my fear, so I took the kids to school and went about my day regardless of the heavy rain.

I relaxed. This wasn’t so bad after all. Then, as I looked out the driver’s window, I saw in the distance what looked like a tornado. I thought that for sure it was something else. What were the chances of me trying to face my fears and actually seeing a tornado?

I was shocked when a few minutes later my children’s schools called to tell me that several tornadoes had been spotted and that the kids were taking cover in the hallways but were safe.

Goodness gracious! I actually saw one of the tornadoes! I couldn’t wait to e-mail my husband and tell him that he was actually wrong, that my fear was right and that I saw a tornado, until I realized that he was actually right because I wasn’t in the tornado ‘s path, and I was still alive to e-mail him.

I began to think that maybe I wasn’t as afraid as I thought. I know what to do if there is a tornado and I follow the precautions. Perhaps my fear is more about the fact that they are unexpected and unknown. I guess they are like many other things in life, unexpected, sometimes scary and occasionally dangerous, but all we can do is prepare and ultimately do our best.

I survived seeing a tornado. That’s a milestone for me. Will I be driving with a tornado warning? Nope, I am not that brave, but I am more comfortable with these meteorological oddities and more confident that we can face anything that comes our way.