When the Sirens Went Off, One Thing Scared Me More Than the Incoming Tornado

Panic flooded my body as the tornado sirens went off in the Denver International Airport.

I’d never been afraid of tornados, as I had grown up in Tornado Alley and responded to many a tornado warning. But ever since I’d been diagnosed with a debilitating pain condition I’d continually fought with my doctors on the issue of using a wheelchair. I didn’t want to use one because I thought it would just make life harder.

The source of my panic was the five flights of stairs I would have to descend then ascend later on in the company of hundreds of other people. On the way to the basement, I slowly inched my way down the stairs, fearing I would be knocked over, or worse — I would fall and knock someone else over. Once I made it down the stairs, I found a place to sit and started to cry. I just kept thinking, “How am I going to get back up all those stairs once the tornado passes?”

I was all by myself. Everyone else was trying to find their families and stick together, but I was traveling alone. Finally, when the time came to go back upstairs, I froze. I didn’t know what to do. All I knew was I couldn’t climb those stairs. I would never make it.

Everyone just seemed to be passing by me in a rush to get to where they were going. As I sat watching the basement empty, one woman came up to me and noticed the panic, terror and desperation on my face. She calmed me down and then flagged down an airport agent who helped me into the employee elevator system. From there, I was transferred to an airport transport vehicle to my gate.

Just before I was to board my flight, my savior returned with a bundle of flowers and some juice and told me even when I felt alone, there would always be someone there to watch out for me. I never got her name, but I so wish I had.

I will be forever grateful to her for the help and support she gave me while I felt terrified, trapped and alone.

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