Student reflects on tornado nightmare

An individual surveys tornado damage done to a house.

Brandi Boulware

An individual surveys tornado damage done to a house.

Memories for Terra Higgins are still crystal clear about the day she and her family was almost swept away by a tornado.

It was almost a year ago, but she still recalls the dreadful day. She remembers how close everything was.

“It started getting really windy,” Higgins said.

On May 4, 2003, Higgins, junior psychology major, was attending a Carl Junction softball meeting and remembers how beautiful the day was. It was sunny outside, and she said it didn’t make too much sense that the emergency response sirens started to go off. Having lived in Carl Junction for nearly all her life, she said hearing the warning sirens wasn’t anything unusual.

“You don’t think anything of it,” Higgins said.

In what seemed to be a matter of moments, the clouds above Carl Junction blackened into a deadly blanket.

“I just knew I wanted to be home,” Higgins said.

When she got home, her father instructed everyone in the family to go to the family bathroom for shelter. In the bathroom was Terra, her younger brother Andrew, her mother Lynne, a puppy and the family cat. Terra’s father, Terry, was still outside the home.

“You could hear the air pressure changing,” she said. “It started getting louder.”

In the waking moments, Higgins said she didn’t think the weather conditions were too serious. Besides, if her father was still outside, then it couldn’t be too bad.

“Then my dad came rushing in,” she said. “The lights went out before he was able to shut the door.”

The family, which was huddled close together, sat in the bathroom for nearly 20 minutes waiting out the tornado.

“I was crying and freaking out,” she said. “My mother was trying to calm me down.”

The only injuries that afternoon was to Andrew. The cat was so frightened that it scratched him all over his body as he tried to hold it down. The family puppy slept through the entire ordeal.

When it was over the Higgins’ family realized their fate. Their home for the most part, was not affected by the storm. A few yards away, neighbors lost everything. Later that afternoon Higgins saw the devastation by driving around the city.

“Words don’t do justice for the emotions brought up,” she said. “When we drove around, that’s when it really hit home.”

The Carl Junction tornado left two people dead that day. To this day, Higgins doesn’t know why her family was so lucky.

“You feel lucky, but you also wonder why the tornado hit where it did,” she said. “You’re really thankful that the people who lost their homes were OK.”

It won’t be hard to forget about the tornado as her family has several dozens photos of the destruction.

While it was one of the most frightening days of Higgins’ life, she said she now looks back at the day and the weeks following as a good life lesson. Higgins was moved by the community moral and all the volunteering. It meant a lot to her to see people help each other.

“It was really nice to see the community pull together,” she said.