A blog about my life, fitness and fun! (...and maybe a few cat pictures...)

A blog about my life, fitness and fun! (...and maybe a few cat pictures...)

Sunday, May 29, 2016

It's a twister!

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This is a long post that has absolutely nothing to do with running or fitness. However, I wanted to write this story out for a while and now I finally did it. If you read the whole thing, you are to be commended!

One of my jobs as the music teacher at my elementary school is to put on an “All-School Show” every other year. When I initially took the job, the previous music teacher simply had each grade level (1st-4th) sing one song separately and then everyone would come together at the end to sing a song together. Hence the moniker “All School Show.”

For the first year I presented the show, I had the help of two other music teachers and we kept the show in the original format. The second time I presented the show, I had the help of one other music teacher. At this time we were realizing that it was getting harder and harder to fit all of the students on/near the stage in our gymnacafetorium. (That’s one room that is the gym, the cafeteria, and our auditorium haha! It’s basically a gym with a stage on one end and a cafeteria on the other end. A moveable dividing wall can split it into two large areas.) Also, it was extremely hard to fit all the parents, aunts, uncles, mee-maws, paw-paws, etc. into the gymnacafetorium to watch the show. It was also a lot of herding kids on and off the stage only to present one song. All that rigamaro for parents to basically see their kids perform for less than five minutes.

The third time I had to present the All-School Show, I was the only music teacher left in the building and I decided that for all the reasons listed above, I would instead do two shows. I would do one show with K-2nd grade and one show with 3rd and 4th grade. The shows would be on two different nights. Each grade level would sing three songs (more stage time!), there would be less students to squeeze on the stage and less parents to fit in the gymnacafetorium.

But it would be more work- for ME.

That was okay though. I was young, spry, and enthusiastic. Musical theater was my JAM. Teaching the students songs and fun, flashy movements was my thing and I enjoyed doing it. It was a lot of work organizing on two totally separate shows and not getting the two mixed up, but somehow I did it.

But soon, the work started to catch up with me. I was so stressed during show week. I think I lost about 5lbs. I couldn’t eat and all I did was run around like a mad woman. The 3rd and 4th Grade show went off pretty well on Tuesday night. It was a relief to have that over with. There was one more show to focus on- the K-2nd grade show on Thursday evening.

This is when everything started to go wrong.

On Thursday afternoon, the K-2nd graders were going to present their show for the 3rd and 4th graders. Families were also invited to attend this school day performance. (This was back in 2011 when security at our school was a lot less strict. We no longer invite families to school day musical performances due to security reasons. They can only come to the evening shows. Oh how times have changed.) Now, remember how I said there was a huge dividing wall in the gym that blocked off the stage side from the cafeteria side? Well this wall obviously had to be opened for our afternoon performance… but it WOULDN’T OPEN! Something was wrong with the motor! There was going to be no way to fit the 3rd and 4th grader and parents with only half of the gymnacafetorium available for seating!

Somehow we squeezed everyone in but I am sure it violated every building code imaginable and parents were rightfully not happy for the uncomfortable conditions. With only half the room being available and all of the bodies squeezed in there, it got incredibly HOT. So not only were parents and grandparents mad about being squished, they were also mad that it was so hot. I understand it was extremely uncomfortable but I was getting really annoyed that they were complaining to me. It was not my fault the wall wouldn’t open and the maintenance department was trying to fix it. There was nothing else I could do. (They eventually got it open for the evening performance- whew!!!)

So the wall not opening was the first thing that went wrong. The second thing that went wrong was that my videographer forgot his camera at home! I had about one hundred families ordering DVDs of the performance that was going to be recorded that day, but the videographer discovered about an hour beforehand that he didn’t have his camera! It was 25 minutes away at his house. He raced home to get it and made it back in time (we held the show for him a bit), but it was extremely stressful. I wasn’t mad at the man. We all make mistakes!

After the craziness of that school day performance, I was literally counting down the hours until the evening performance would be over. I went home after school to do who knows what, then drove back to work and arrived around six o’clock. The show started at 7:00pm. Luckily, there was not much for me to do during this hour. The student performers weren’t arriving until about 6:30, and they were to go directly to their classroom teacher’s rooms. Their teacher would line them up for the show, and at about 6:55, I’d lead them up to the gymnacafetorium (that would be filled to the brim with audience members) for the show.

These moments before the show were pretty peaceful. I was alone in my basement classroom. The window shades were down because the gym teacher was using my classroom while I was hogging her gym for my show. She was doing Dance, Dance, Revolution with the students and it needed to be dark for that game. I didn’t bother to open the shades. I liked my little moments of hibernation! And in just one glorious hour, all the stress would be over! I COULD NOT FREAKING WAIT.

I am sure you can tell that something terrible was about to go wrong!

At 6:55 on the dot, I went upstairs for the show. I could hear a lot of noise coming from the gymnacafetorium. It was a full house! The lobby seemed to be buzzing with nervous energy. Some of the custodians and our principal were darting around and looking outside. I peeked outside. It was dark (even though it was May and only 7:00!) and the sky looked green.

“Mrs. Cooney, there’s a tornado watch!” one of the custodians told me.

I started laughing like a mad woman. “OF COURSE THERE IS!” I shrieked through my laughter. It dawned on me then that this whole stressful week was nowhere near over, and the most stressful situation of all was about to occur.

It looked BAD outside. I got really nervous. Extreme weather scares me. Were we really going to start the show? We were. My kindergarteners were lined up and ready to go. With the help of their teachers, I filed them onto the stage. The show began and they sang their first song- Little Red Caboose.

At the end of the song, the audience cheered. Can you think of anything cuter than one hundred five and six year olds singing, “Toot toot!” in unison? (Of course you can, but I imagine if it’s your kid up there it’s pretty darn cute.) Then my principal grabbed the microphone and made the announcement. There were tornadoes spotted in the area. We would all be going to the basement for safety until the danger was over. The principal dismissed the students to the basement first (the teachers accompanied them) and when the students were safely downstairs, the audience would go down too.

There are classrooms in the basement of our school. My classroom is down there. But we don’t call it the basement. These younger kids heard “basement” and got scared. Some of them were crying. We tried very hard to explain to them that the basement is the same place they go for music class and it wasn’t going to be scary. Then as we were going down the stairs the lights flickered. More screaming and crying. Oh boy.

The teachers made it down to the basement with their students and tried to keep everyone together. Now remember, this is K, 1st, and 2nd grade… which was about 300 students plus several teachers. Next, parents came downstairs. Wow. That’s a lot of people. It was extremely crowded and hot. You can imagine the chaos. Some parents wanted to leave with their kids and drive home. Some parents wanted to simply have their kiddos at their side. It was very confusing to know who went with who and all that stuff. We didn’t go into any classrooms because the classrooms had windows.

I was a little nervous about the tornadoes, but I realized that being in the basement of a huge brick building was probably the safest place in the world to be. However, some parents were opening up the doors to the outside to look out and see what was going on. That pissed me off! The whole point was to be safe from the tornadoes! I didn’t want a tornado to go by and suck some of us out the doors! By now it had been confirmed that several tornadoes had touched down in the area. Power lines were down and trees were uprooted all over the place. One of the tornadoes had touched down on Trindle Road. Oh my gosh, I lived right near Trindle!

That’s when I got scared for the cats. They were home alone. Paul was at work in Harrisburg at a huge UPS warehouse. I knew he’d be fine. But the cats… Jelly is smart enough to go down to the basement, but that freaking Christmas of mine… I knew if there was a tornado outside he’d be sitting right on the bay window watching the show. He’s fearless. And stupid.

I couldn’t call or text Paul because my phone wasn’t getting reception. I snuck into my classroom and used my classroom phone to call him. He was safe and sound at UPS. I told him to let me know as soon as he got home that the cats were safe. He wasn’t going home until it was safe, but I had a feeling he’d be home before me.

I can’t remember how long we were in the basement. Our principal would give us updates over the intercom. Once it was finally safe to leave, everyone went home. I don’t know how the teachers made sure the students went home to the right person but somehow they did. The other teachers and I stayed at the school for quite a while after everyone was dismissed because the whole parking lot was a traffic jam. Finally around 9:30 I left to go home. It took a long time due to many roads being closed and what not. Paul got home before me and called to assure me the cats were safe. Whew.

As for the performance, there was only a couple more days left in the school year and there were school events (unrelated to me) going on every night. My principal told me there was no way to squeeze a performance in. That was fine with me. I had zero energy left. I was disappointed the students didn’t get to perform their show but I knew this would be a night they would never forget for their entire life! I knew I wasn’t going to forget it anytime soon!
Have you ever been involved in a tornado or other severe weather situation?


  1. Oh wow !! That sounds like it got crazy ! Do you still do night shows? My son's school never does any shows liked that. I both dislike it and enjoy it. We parents can be pretty rude! Sorry you have to put up with jerks !!! I want to think that I complain, but will never take it out on a teacher. You are so much better than me, if my videographer would forget his camera, I would be really mad! I would have been a parent that snuck back into her kids class to be next to him... But I would help the teacher.

    I think I remember that day! I was at home with my son and my then husband, and I was watching the news, because the weather was being weird... We lived in a house without a basement, and our plan was to hide in the pantry, blocked by the mattress. My son saw us moving the mattress and got really scared, he was barely 2. We lived 1 block from Trindle. But no tornado by us.

    However, Harrisburg was a mess ! All around our office, lots of trees down, wires down, branches on trees, trees uprooted. I still Have pictures somewhere of all the destruction around our office.

    Sorry! My comment got really long !!

    1. Yes that is the exact storm I am talking about -2011. Lots of trees up on Front Street!

      We still do night shows. I do an evening chorus concert in Dec. and May. Then every other year we do the "All School Show" which is now only 3rd and 4th grade! I decided it wasn't feasible to do the entire school at once (no room) and WAY TOO MUCH WORK to do two separate shows in the same week.

      Everyone can be rude/jerks- not just parents!! The only reason I was not mad at the videographer is because I figure at some point I am going to screw up royally and I hope when that happens people aren't mean to me! :)

      I would want to be near my kid too! Some parents were taking the kids to take them HOME though- in that storm!!! I didn't understand that. It was much safer in the school! Obviously we couldn't stop anyone from leaving. No one got hurt, whew!

      OMG THAT NIGHT WAS SO STRESSFUL!!! Hopefully I go through the entire rest of my career with nothing near as stressful as that night!

  2. I really admire and respect all the work that music teachers go through to put on the shows! We went to every single one for my nephews Trent and Kyle while they were K-5, and now little Trevor (still in preschool) is starting them too! I think my favorite song was when they sang Silent Night and they turned out all the lights in the auditorium but the kids had glow in the dark gloves and performed sign language. I was glad the lights were down because I busted out into the ugly cry. It was beyond beautiful.

    Wow, that tornado scare would have been awful. I am sure emotions were running high. We have had tornadoes hit Berthoud and Windsor (so very close) and in 2013 we had the flood that wiped out Estes, Lyons, the canyon and parts of the front range. Mother Nature ain't messing around...

    1. Wow that performance sounds beautiful. I would have ugly cried as well! There have been years my students made me cry in rehearsals and they were alarmed and I'm like no no it's good that I cried, I am happy! Haha.

  3. Crazy story! I grew up in the midwest so I remember that kind of stuff. I hate tornados.

  4. Yes, I read to the end! Wow, that is scary and I can't believe I didn't remember this tornado stuff happening since I'm not that far away.
    I have a Hurricane Sandy Story. Yup, driving up from VA Beach with 2 labs in the car, trying to get through the tunnel before it flooded. I'll have to tell you sometime.

    1. That sounds so scary!!!! We have to start making a list of what you're going to tell me next time we hang. I feel like there are at least three things on the list at this point. :)

  5. Damn, what a day. It seems like everything that could go wrong did, except in the end everyone was safe and that's what really matters.

    I can only imagine how worried you were for Christmas and Jelly. Growing up whenever I would have Hurricane Days off from school and my mom's work was still open she would bring me and the cats to her office! Lots of her coworkers would bring their kids, but no one else brought their pets. Looking back on it now, I'm sure some of her coworkers were probably like. "wtf did this woman really bring her cats to the conference room?" but the answer was YES because they were just as important to her as me! haha

    1. LOL now I understand where you get your love of animals from!!! I don't understand why someone would NOT want to protect their pets if they had the opportunity to do so.

  6. Wow what a story! I have to say, this year we had actual tornado watches foe the first time and it made me really appreciate my principal and how much she does for our school. She kept coming on the loudspeaker to update us and keep the kids calm. Parents kept driving to the school (this was in the middle of a normal day) to pick up their kids but the MS building is separate from elementary and we couldn't let the kids walk outside to get to the main office, so parents had to then be kept in the office and kept safe, too. It was super crowded. The kids did a great job but some were nervous and one had an anxiety attack from being in the hunkering position so close to other kids for so long (about 30 minutes).

    As much as I miss Archie, part of me is glad we haven't gotten another bird yet. I get so anxious just thinking about times he may have been scared or confused, and I never want to deal with that again. I'm glad everything turned out okay for you, the kids, the kitties, and Paul!

    1. Wow that sounds like it would have been a really stressful work day! Were you worried or did you feel safe in the building?

  7. Oh my I have never felt an earthquake. You're like me and any disaster I immediately worry about the cats!