Thursday, September 16, 2010

Tornado in Park Slope

The kids and I were just smack in the middle of an actual tornado. Thanks to Primo, we were saved from possible injury and definite stupidity. And also, I guess I’m a liar.

We were coming back from Seconda’s first ballet class, and the sky had looked overcast since I picked Primo up from school. So when we passed the playground right next to our house at about 5:15, I wasn’t deterred from hanging out there for a bit just because the sky was ominous-looking.

“I think its going to rain,” said Primo.

“I think you’re right.” I said, “But that’s OK. We are really close to home and a little rain won’t hurt us.”

Then I ordered the children to run around as much as possible and exhaust themselves. At about 5:30, the sky got seriously dark. Sec was having a rocking time with the spiral slide and not ready to depart, and I figured we had a few more minutes – if it started to rain, we’d be home in two minutes. But Primo wasn’t so sure.

“I want to go home now. It’s going to thunder and lightening!”

“You can play for a few more minutes,” I urged him, “We’re so close to home.”

I coaxed him to do some swinging on the rings, and then, less than a minute later, a flash of lightening split the sky.


I literally laughed out loud (great parenting, I know).

Primo has been terrified of a tornado hitting New York since last year when his reading buddy at school, a fifth grader, read him a non-fiction book about twisters. He went through a phase where he’d ask me constantly, several times a day, if there was going to be a tornado in Park Slope, and I told him every time, that it is impossible for a tornado to come to New York, because New York is right by the water and tornados only form in flat plains, like Kansas. I PROMISED him that a tornado would never hit New York because it was impossible.

But, as evidence of how much he trusts my judgment and believes in my promises, at the slightest sign of a storm, he freaks out at the tornado potential. So I did not think he was prophetic when at 5:30pm, he predicted the tornado. I thought that he was neurotic.

“Will you please calm down?” I asked, the way you do as a parent, not asking but really demanding, in a not so nice fashion.

“PLEASE CAN WE GO HOME RIGHT THIS MINUTE???” he screamed. Another clap of thunder. Then lightening. “WE HAVE TO GO!”

I did agree, by that point, but getting Seconda off the top of the spiral slide was no small feat. She isn’t scared of thunder of lightening or tornados or the apocalypse. That kid is fearless.

With Primo screaming prophecies like Nostradamus, I chased Sec up and down the playground apparatus until I finally grabbed her, tossed her in the stroller and speed-walked out of the playground.

Halfway across the block, Primo asked my permission to run. And I told him, fine, run down the block. Knock yourself out.

We walked into the apartment and I said, “See that? We didn’t even get rained on.”

Upstairs, we sat by the window and counted the seconds between the flashes of lightening. The skyline was spectacular.

But then within a few minutes, the sky went from gray to shit-is-going-wrong dark.

“Why is it so dark?” Primo ventured nervously.

“Just a storm, honey.” I replied.

“Are you sure it’s not a tornado?”

“For the last time,” I replied, “THERE ARE NO TORNADOES IN PARK SLOPE.”

Then I noticed that I could not longer see the neon lights of the stores across the street. That was odd because I have never not been able to see them – in fog, in rain, in blizzards, those neon lights are legible. I got a definite, for real, bad vibe. There was a black cloud filling the avenue in front of our window so I couldn’t see anything. But I could hear the wind and it was preternaturally strong. I’d never heard wind like that. It occurred to me perhaps it wasn't so wise to sit by the window with my two little children. So I shut the blinds, and took the kids into the other room.

Five minutes later, the sky was clear again. And a little while after that, David came home from work and told us that on his walk home from the train he'd seen trees had been uprooted, crushing cars, that the streets were a mess with branches and roof tiles, and that a man was blown down the stairs of the subway and had to be carried out of the station on 9th Street in a stretcher.

“What was it?” I asked.

“T-o-r-n-a-d-o,” he replied.

So there you have it. Primo, pipsqueak prognosticator, saved the day. And tornadoes can hit New York. Don't believe me? Watch this crazy video on Gothamist.

Here's hoping everyone's safe and we can file this episode in the "Freak-accident- thank-God-we-haven't-been-through-a-real-natural-disaster-and-remind-me-not-to-visit-Kansas" file.