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."