Natural Disasters

A Lasagna Saved our Lives. It was May 22nd, 2011 when I lived in a… | by Jeanne Marron | The Digital Journals | Nov, 2021

Photo by Caseen Kyle Registos on Unsplash

It was May 22nd, 2011 when I lived in a little blue house on the north side of Joplin, Missouri. It was a Sunday, and normally on a Sunday, we would be off in our van, going around and seeing friends. However, my ex wasn’t feeling it and wanted to hang out at home and watch movies.

We watched ‘GoodFellas’. If you have seen that film, you know that there is a ton, and I mean A TON of Italian food throughout it. We also did not realize that this movie was very long. By the end of it, I was salivating for a taste of pizza, pasta, meatballs, you name it. I remembered that I had purchased a lasagna-making kit a week before. I was determined that I was going to get the lasagna, put together, and then cook it.

As I started laying the sauce over the noodles, my ex appeared and asked what I was doing, and said that he wanted to go to Walmart to pick up a few things, including photos from my daughter’s birthday party (pictures I still do not have to this day). I told him that I could bake the lasagna, and then when it was done, set it on top of the oven to cool, and then off we would go. He reluctantly agreed.

Barely five minutes after I had put the lasagna in the oven, the storm sirens went off. It was Joplin, and up to that point, we never really made a big deal about sirens. As long as our power was on and we didn’t see anything barreling toward us, no worries. While I worked in the kitchen, ‘That 70’s Show’ was on in the living room, where my ex and kids hung out. At one point, my ex went outside to smoke a cigarette, only to come back in to tell me I had to come see something.

Around 5:35 p.m. on a summer afternoon, the sky outside was pitch black. So dark that the street lights had come on, and the wind was blowing pretty hard. I remember a pizza delivery car driving down the road “Who is ordering pizza right about now?” I thought to myself, then remembered my lasagna in the oven. Maybe that person also watched the same film? It started to rain and we were surprised when the power decided to go out. We were even more surprised when the siren sounded an additional two times. Okay, that rarely happened, hmm.

I decided, out of caution to get the kids together, as well as sofa cushions and pillows, and pile us all into the closet. We sat in there for a bit, as my ex kept going back and forth between the closet and the front porch to smoke. I would be lying if I said I wasn’t doing the same thing (I quite years later, gross habit).

At one point, our landline phone, that was thankfully still operating, rang. My ex picked it up and discovered it was my mother, who lived on the other side of town with my grandmother. She was always the panicky type, alarmist, pessimistic sort of person, so we often took things she said with a grain of salt. She told my ex that their power had also gone out and that she was worried about how hard the wind was blowing. My ex, and I will never forget this, sarcastically told my mother “Sure, Jill, an EF5 tornado is going to come right through Joplin. Honestly, it’s nothing to worry about, do not stress.”

Eventually, the rain stopped, and then the wind stopped. The clouds parted, and the sun came right back out, and everything seemed as it had been just before this random storm passed through. It was a nice day out. We crawled out of the closet. The lasagna was just about finished.

A few minutes later, I took it out and set it on top of the oven. We rounded up the kids. Outside, our neighbors were listening to the radio in their car, something about the Home Depot sign on Rangeline Road being knocked down from the high winds. We already had stuff like that happen before with trees being knocked down and sidewalk being lifted up in past storms.

We hopped in our van and headed for Walmart as planned. Halfway there, we decided to turn on the radio for some music. Instead of music, the voice of w a familiar dj spoke urgently, and said things like “The amount of predicted mass causalities in Joplin”, and “the damage being very widespread”. My ex and I looked at each other in confusion, as we noticed the trees of either side of the road start to look tattered and shredded, a mixture of trash, twigs, and brick appeared to litter the ground, and right as we got closer to Rangeline, we saw all of it.

Buildings as far as the eye could see were all completely flattened like a giant had went around stomping on them, as if they were made of Legos. Downed utility poles, trees, cars, signage, trash, equipment, chairs, inventory from various stores, and other debris blocked parts of the road. The traffic was at a stand-still on Rangeline, as people wanted to check on their various loved ones. People were walking alongside the road, various people in their work uniforms, looking very dazed and in shock, blood running down from various injuries they had sustained, other people ran from all sides, asking the injured if they were okay and if needed assistance. Walmart was just to our left in the distance, completely demolished.

After about an hour in traffic, we were able to find a road to turn off on, however, the line of vehicles was unending. After a couple of hours and driving out of Joplin and then around the outside perimeter of the city, we finally made it back to our house. The sound of sirens in the air. Inside, the house was dark, as the power still had not come back on, however, the lasagna still sat on top of the oven.

My ex and I got the kids settled with a piece of slightly warm lasagna, and then sat down to our own plates. As I bit into the cheese-and-sauce filled, carbohydrate goodness, it dawned at me that had I not stubbornly insisted on making the lasagna, me, the ex, and my kids would have all went to Walmart and been caught out in the storm and possibly might not have survived. What if we hadn’t watched that particular film? Would I have still decided to make the lasagna, or would we have dined out, possibly in the storm’s path? My ex broke the silence when he said “Next time I would let the noodles cook a little longer, they’re not as tender as I like them.” I just gaped at him. “This lasagna saved your life, it should be the best one you’ve ever tasted.” I replied back.

We were unable to get either my mother or grandmother on the phone. For all we knew, they were under their house in a pile of rubble. We knew that it was time to find a way to get to their part of town to make sure they were alright. My anxiety was climbing.

…………. To Be Continued.

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