Tornado twists roles as wife, reporterWritten by Brandi Barhite | Community Ombudsman | firstname.lastname@example.org
I am a teacher’s wife.
That usually means baking cookies for students, attending a doubleheader and selling tickets to the football game.
On June 6, it meant surveying tornado damage and learning the valedictorian’s dad had died hours before commencement was scheduled.
At 1 a.m., my husband and I received a call that Lake High School had been hit. We turned on the news and couldn’t tell from the coverage the extent of the damage.
Our initial reaction was to believe the news anchors were exaggerating; they were just a little too excited about the storm.
It wasn’t to be.
We called Superintendent Jim Witt, who also happens to be a friend. He answered the phone quickly, and my husband asked what we could do.
Witt said, “Pray.”
The next few hours were a blur of watching television, calling teachers and hoping we were safe in our Maumee home.
By 6 a.m., I could no longer convince my husband to stay home. He had to go to the school to see for himself.
When he got there, he was astounded.
It was worse than it looked on television. The high school was basically gone. The field house was rubble. Th e cafeteria was obliterated. Buses were twisted and mangled. The concession stands were cooked. Windows were shattered. All my husband could see in his second-floor classroom was a Martin Luther King Jr. poster on the wall.
And then he started to travel around the neighborhoods we used to call home. We lived in Millbury for nine months after getting married. My husband lived there four years as we dated.
One street away from our old apartment was Main Street, the neighborhood torn apart by the twister. Fellow teacher Mike Densic and his family were OK, as was their house. Many of the other houses were gone or severely damaged.
Ed Blank had just golfed in a Lake fundraiser the day before. Now, he couldn’t find his clubs or anything else. He only had the shirt on his back, a Tigers T-shirt. He and my husband laughed. If a man was to only have one shirt, a Tigers shirt was the right one.
The forced laughter would not continue.
We learned valedictorian Katie Kranz had lost her father, Ted. He left the basement to turn on the generator and retrieve a family dog that was too old to walk down the stairs. Ted’s body was found hours later underneath a chimney. He never made it out of the house.
We later found out that Lake alumnus Bailey Bowman had been swept away when she tried to seek shelter at the Lake Township Police Department. She was with her baby and boyfriend, who both made it to safety.
The news got worse. Hayden Walters, 4, and his mother, Mary, also Millbury residents, died. Her husband, Ryan, and daughter, Madison, who had just finished first grade at Lake, were seriously injured and at the hospital. The family didn’t wake up when the tornado sirens went off. Mary worked at Children’s Discovery Center as an administrative assistant. A friend of mine knew her.
“Mary has left an incredible mark on teachers, children and family’s lives, which has made this heartbreaking tragedy extremely difficult. She was an unbelievable woman, who graced our presence through her faith, teaching and friendship,” a release from the Children’s Discovery Center stated.
And then there was that red car we kept seeing over and over again on the television.
The woman in that car was Kathleen Hammitt, a Woodville resident, who was struck by airborne debris while driving on State route 795.
Even now, people from the Lake family are in the hospital. We are helpless; we have to pray like Witt told us to.
When we went to visit the school the streets were lined with people wanting to catch a glimpse.
Pieces of the school had flown through the air and pierced the ground. Metal sheets had traveled with such force that they were stuck to trailers.
We saw our former landlord’s house, the Diekmans. We didn’t recognize it. Half the house was gone; the barn was in shambles.
A few people expressed guilt at taking photos. Many of them were alumni and wanted to see it for themselves.
In the middle of all of this, my husband was talking to a graduating senior. They talked about how her family lives down the road and how they were OK.
As a reporter, I should have asked to interview her. It would have been the perfect time to get a quote. I had my reporter’s notebook in my purse. I had a recorder, too.
But I didn’t.
Today, rather than a reporter, I am a teacher’s wife.
Tags: tornado damage