“Seek Shelter Now”

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This alert was emailed out by on of the local newspapers: Seek shelter now. Surreally alarming, don’t you think?  Tornado warnings are unusual in these parts and I’d wager that not many of us in the northeast know where we should shelter. Even after years of living in Kentucky where tornados are more common, I am not sure. (or the answer to the question – windows open or closed?)

But this headline resonated with me for other reasons, triggering memories. Seek shelter now! Is my home shelter? That question surfaced in my life more than once in the past, and not inspired by the weather. There were harrowing days when I needed escape from living with an addict.

I am reminded of the times when, as a traveler, I sometimes wearied of seeking shelter and longed for a home of my own as I peered out the train window at landscapes in Europe, in Asia.

I remember my first experience of war – shelling within days of my arrival to Knin in June 1992.  I had just checked in to a bleak Communist-era hotel, ready to start my job with the peacekeeping mission UNPROFOR when the building shook and my ears popped from a mortar shell landing just over the mountain. I went down to the lobby where the hotel staff answered my question of what to do? where to go? with blank looks. Marco, the interpreter from Belgrade I’d met earlier in the day, showed up to rescue me. His calm demeanor a comfort, he smiled and said, “There’s nothing we can do, so let’s go eat and drink wine”. That’s what we did, at first flinching, then, warmed by the good local wine, ignoring the thunder of shelling. A few years later in Sarajevo with my soon to be husband, shelter at the Holiday Inn meant sleeping under flak jackets but mostly feeling protected by the flush of new love.

The tornados did not land in our Connecticut city this time, but we were warned and I am reminded, grateful for safety today.

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