Courier-Post columnist Danny Henley has another reason to be thankful this Thanksgiving.
Despite the blustery conditions, I set out for a walk mid-morning on Sunday, Nov. 17. Although showers were in the area, I couldn’t pass up the chance to go for a walk when it was 74 degrees in the middle of November.
With my wife, Nancy, already off to work and our daughter, Anna, still inspecting the insides of her eye lids for light leaks, I set out alone on my walk. Being by myself wasn’t a bad thing on this particular day as it afforded me some time alone with my thoughts.
The subject at the forefront of my thought process that day was what sort of column to write for Tuesday, Nov. 26. Just two days before Thanksgiving, the painfully obvious subject for a column was “thankfulness.” But as I’ve learned since starting to write my “A Little Salt” column some 18 years ago, the obvious topic is not always the easiest subject to tackle.
“What could I write about that I haven’t said time and again?” I repeatedly asked myself.
Compounding my situation is that for an assortment of reasons, none of which I’ll bore you with dear reader, I’m not feeling as thankful as I should be. And writing from the heart is tough to do when you’re heart is not into it.
As I huddled behind a tree as wind-blown rain fell, I convinced myself that I had an idea I could crank out roughly 600 words about, which wouldn’t sound as dry as Aunt May’s Thanksgiving stuffing.
Later that day, as Anna and I were eating pizza and watching a movie together, the phone rang. It was my sister-in-law, Heather, who was calling to check on the well-being of my oldest son, Caleb, since the community in which he lives, Washington, Ill., had been hit by a tornado.
After saying something more profane than profound, I turned on The Weather Channel in the hope of catching an update. I didn’t have to wait long before photos of flattened houses and crumpled vehicles in Washington were appearing on the TV screen.
Anna worked the Internet, looking for details, while I attempted to call Caleb at his apartment. Not unexpected, I received an automated message stating that because of equipment problems my call could not be completed. I then tried Caleb’s cell phone, but the call went straight to voice mail.
By that time Anna had uncovered the storm had hit around 11 a.m., which meant there was an extremely good chance Caleb was at church. Of course, that didn’t guarantee his safety since churches are frequently not spared a tornado’s destructive wrath.
Over the next few hours we became a central hub for family members to call and inquire about Caleb’s status. Unfortunately, it wasn’t until mid-afternoon that I had much information to share.
One of Nancy’s aunts happened to have a daughter in Washington that day for a pre-Thanksgiving event. It was through this third-hand source that I learned that the city square, where Caleb lives, was undamaged.
Still, I heard no word regarding my son until around 3:45 p.m. when the phone rang. When I picked up the phone a familiar voice bid me “hello.” It was Caleb, alive and well.
For roughly the next 20 minutes Caleb shared his storm story. He reported seeing the tornado touch down and begin its destructive path about a half-mile from the church where he was standing. Before seeking shelter, Caleb noted the storm sounded like a “jet engine.”
While thankful his apartment was spared, Caleb shared that some of his friends had lost their homes. And while none of his acquaintances had been hurt, at least one family’s dog was missing.
As I hung up the phone that afternoon, I realized how relieved I was to have heard Caleb’s voice and how especially thankful I am that my son was spared.