Monday, August 22, 2011

Lightning Strikes Twice

Lightning Strike 1: They say the sky was crystal clear that day and the humidity oppressive. Football practice had just ended and the players slowly straggled off the field to shower off the sweat and dirt. Three fellows, Tino, Javier, and Mikey walked together, laughing and joking as had been their custom since they met as first graders. Tino was the quarterback with the monster arm, Javier was his big right tackle and Mikey was the swift footed running back. They made a pact with each other that they would stop short of nothing but winning the 8th grade championship that year. They dug into each practice ferociously, as if it were their last game.

Mikey had just popped his towel at Javier at the edge of the field when it hit. A blinding flash and a strange tingling sensation stunned the other players coming off the field behind them. They looked around, trying to figure out what had just happened when the thunder began booming. They didn't initially notice the three figures sprawled on the ground, but when they did, they scrambled to get to them. Tino, Javier, and Mikey were already gone, their last practice now one everyone would remember for many decades to come.

A small memorial to them, the three struck by lightning, sits at the corner of the football field at the school where I started teaching. More than 40 years later, grown men who were their teammates still get choked up when talking about them. To this day, coaches at this school who weren't even born when the three were killed check the skies and weather reports carefully before any outdoors practice.

Lightning Strike 2: My mother was on the phone that afternoon in her gorgeous sunroom, with floor to ceiling windows and new, handmade Mexican tile just recently snugged into place on the floor. Her cordless phone was new and while she talked, she could see gathering rain clouds in the distance, although they looked to be far away still. My husband was just pulling into their driveway when he was blinded by searing flash of light; so profound it made his eyes hurt. He could not imagine where the flash had come from, and as he got out of his truck, he smelled a strange, burning odor.

My mother, inside the house on her phone, also saw the burning flash of light, but even more telling was the jolt she felt that sliced through her like a knife and seemed to travel though her arm, then through her head, and back through her other arm. She felt breathless and couldn't figure out what had just happened. She looked at the new Mexican tile and saw that it was cracked in a path that led to the outside door. The crack continued down the sidewalk outside and stopped just short of the pool.

My husband ran inside and found her intact, but they were both puzzled about what had just happened until my husband saw the cracks in the floor and sidewalk. Lightning had hit the top of the roof and forged pathways all through the house and outside of it.

Most of the interior plumbing in the kitchen had melted, producing the strange burning odor. The electrical appliances either didn't work or operated at a frenzied pace, displaying odd combinations of numbers and letters in attempts to right themselves.

The new, large screen TV in the den had smoke coming from the back and needed a dousing with the fire extinguisher. An area of roof tiles was damaged, as well as some of the underlying wooden components that formed the foundation for the tiles. They realized this was the place the lightning first struck.

My mother was physically well except for an odd buzzing in her ears, which continued for several weeks until she went to a doctor. There, he told her she'd lost 40% of her hearing due to the fact of being on the phone when the lightening hit. She was outfitted with state of the art hearing aids, but will always remember that day when things could have turned out so much worse.

The odds of being struck by lightning are 1/1,000,000, according to the National Weather Service. I agree with Richard Branson, though, who said, "Lightning is something which, again, we would rather avoid."


  1. I'm so glad your mother survived that close call, Shelly, and the story about the young athletes getting struck and killed on the field is tragic. I live in what is officially known as the Lightning Capital of the World. Throughout the warm weather months (most of the year) there are news reports of people being struck and sometimes killed. Just last evening we had a frightening electrical storm. Twelve years ago our home was hit like you mother's. Lightning traveled through the house frying all of our appliances and all of our office machines that we used to run a home business. We actually saw the fireball sail across the room!

  2. Fascinating stories. The first is so sad. The account of your mom's experience is incredible. You write so well!

  3. Shady: Wow! What an experience that must have been. I am so glad you all weren't injured. The Lightning Capital of the World- yikes. I don't think I would want to be outdoors much. I wonder if lightning rods offer much protection. At any rate, be careful, my friend!

    Bossy Betty: Thank you so much- I am very grateful my mom came through as unscathed as she did because it could have been so much worse.

  4. Did she have any sort of psychic abilities? Crazy to ask, I know, but I've heard stories of that happening...

  5. Stephanie: No, no psychic abilities, although I thought she might have something like that going when I was a teenager and she always seemed to know where I was when I didn't want her too...

  6. What an awful story about those boys! Man! It just goes to show we, as the human race, are not in control.

    Glad your mom is OK. Very close call! (no pun intended.)

  7. I'm not kidding when I tell you that my friend Rod was struck by lightning on his honeymoon. After that, of course, he was known as Lightning Rod.

    It actually messed him up for quite a while, affecting the left side of his body and his ability to walk straight...


  8. Crystal: The memory of those boys is something I don't think will ever go away at that school or in that part of town. What a loss! And my mom counts her blessings every day.

    Pearl: Oh my goodness!!! What are the odds- poor thing- what a way to get a cool nickname. I do hope it's all sorted out for him and he's not feeling anymore effects from it-

  9. Oh, my gosh, you mama is so blessed to be alive, but I'm sure it's not fun losing her hearing. I bet she's afraid of cordless phones now? Wow, what stories!

    I let the kiddos play in the rain, but never ever if there's thunder and lightning...I'll have to tell them these stories!

    I used to live in California, and can't remember which they don't have, thunder or lightning....I think it's thunder...I remember it being odd having a storm without it.

  10. Jamie Jo: Yes, she is very blessed, and I am so thankful! Lightning is just so unpredictable- I don't take any chances around it. Wow- no thunder, but with rain and lightning would be kind of weird. At least thunder sometimes gives you some kind of warning-

  11. Wow, I may just tell these incedences to my grand kids when they are a little older. Lightening is very real and very scary indeed.

  12. Munir: I think that's a good idea. So many people don't understand the real dangers of lightning- a little education goes a long way.

  13. What an amazing story. I've always liked lightning - probably because we dont' have a lot of it where I live. It's kind of an exciting novelty. But this reminded me to be careful and have a little respect for Mother Nature. Sad story about the boys. Glad your mom was OK too.

  14. That is a very sad tale about the three friends. My husband lost a friend in a somewhat similar fashion as a young boy. He and two other friends were leaving the playground on their bikes. Lighting flashed and one of them fell to the ground with his bike. Sadly he never recovered and was pronounced dead on the site.

    I have a very healthy respect for lightning and warn everyone to have the same.

  15. Karen: Thanks! Yes, lightning is one of those forces I am more than happy to move away from, too.

    Sush: What tragic story about your husband's friend- and amazing how it just strcuk one and not the other two. I like to watch lightning from the shelter of a sturdy home, but never outdoors in it.

  16. Wow! Two amazing incidents. Although your mother wasn't badly injured, the lightning still displayed how powerful it is. The story about the three friends was powerful, moving and very sad. You are a wonderful writer. I have the stories, but nowhere near your talent. I would give a lot to have both.

    1. Pat: Thank you, my friend, for your kind words. I've read your posts, and you've got the talent AND the stories.


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