I was sitting at this desk at 9:42 pm last night when the iPhone alert came through. “Tornado Warning in this area til 10:15 CDT. Take shelter now.” I woke my daughter, corralled the schnauzers and decamped team Farago into a tiny windowless bathroom in the middle of the ground floor. I lay a blanket down for the dogs and sat on the floor. Lola perched on the toilet. The minuscule radar image on the iPhone and the barely legible text crawling below it were not reassuring. Quite the opposite . . .
Our bedroom suburb was in the dead center of the warning zone. Bright yellow and orange bobs swirled towards our town’s name in a seemingly endless video loop. Deeply ominous red flecks moved through the middle of the mass. Ten minutes in, at 9:58pm, a stark message leaped out from the tiny screen. My town’s name and the words “rotation reported.” A tornado was forming directly overhead.
“I’m scared,” Lola said, her furrowed brow indicating maximum distress.
“Me too,” I replied.
Only I wasn’t, so much.
I’m a fatalist – especially when there’s nothing you can do to minimize or avoid catastrophe. More than that, I’m calm in a crisis. Maybe it’s the fatalism. Maybe it’s all the years I spent coping with my alcoholic second wife; years where stress piled on top of stress on a foundation of stress built on a subterranean strata of stress on a stress-filled planet flying through a galaxy of stress in stress universe. Or maybe it’s the just the way I’m wired.
In any case, even the imminent threat of an incipient tornado didn’t get my adrenalin pumping. An actual tornado? You’d have to have ice in your veins not to be scared shitless of that. And truth be told, I was frightened. Frightened for Lola.
“Daddy I don’t want to die,” Lola said. “You’re not going to die,” I assured her, pretending that the question was absurd. “How do you know that?” she demanded. “I don’t,” I admitted, brutally honest truth-teller that I am. “Let’s just say it’s highly unlikely.” “I don’t like gambling,” Lola laughed, nervously.
During the next ten minutes, I texted Dan and my next door neighbors (who were sheltering in their closet), watched the map with increasing trepidation, lied to Lola about the storm’s progress (there are limits) and listened for the freight train. “I hope it’s not coming for my guns,” I texted Dan. Which got me thinking . . .
Why wouldn’t a parent carry a gun to protect their children?
We do so much for our kids. We feed them, clothe them, put a roof over their heads, educate them and give them emotional support. Day after day, year after year, we do everything we can to keep them safe. To teach them how to be safe when we’re not around. More than that, we feel for them. We love them. Every part of us wants them to live.
And yet bad things happen. Things we can’t do anything about. Random, infrequent, statistically insignificant threats, like central Texas tornados. Or a moose jumping through a window into your kid’s classroom. And things we can do something about. Like childhood diseases. And violent attackers.
For those some of us can carry a gun. I highly recommend it. Despite gun control advocates’ anti-gun agitprop, a firearm is an extremely effective tool that dramatically increases your odds of survival in the unlikely event you need it to protect yourself or your genetic legacy. Which also includes those times when you’re not with your children. You can’t protect your kids if you’re dead.
I realize that managing risk isn’t quite that black-and-white. You can do something to prepare for “black swan” events. You can make sure your iPhone is on for tornado alerts when the weather closes in. Or build a storm shelter. And there are lots of ways to avoid violent attackers; strategies that have nothing to do with a gun. We can avoid stupid people in stupid place doing stupid things. Or hire a bodyguard.
Last night I was Lola’s bodyguard. And I was powerless to protect her from an enormous threat to her life.
As the minutes crawled by, all I could do was live through the danger with my daughter. I made jokes to distract her from the thought of the dark clouds swirling above our heads. I offered her all I had to give: the comfort of my existence. A father prepared to do whatever he needed to do to protect his child after the storm. If and when the weather tore our world apart.
Which it didn’t. So I’m still here. Still armed. Still ready to defend my life, liberty and pursuit of happiness. And that of my children. I understand those who don’t want to protect themselves and their kids by force of arms. But I do not appreciate or approve of anyone’s desire to limit Americans’ natural, civil and Constitutionally protected right to keep and bear arms.
By persisting in this endeavor they put our children at risk. By doing so they run the risk of unleashing forces which will make a tornado seems like a mild breeze. And that’s all I’ve got to say about that. Time to walk the dogs.