Tuesday, 31 May 2011

Code Black!

Who knew a trip to Walmart while on vacation would result in such an exciting story to tell?!

We went down south to the City for a mini family vacation this week. We like to go during the week because the cross border traffic is significantly lower which means less busy shopping and less waiting at restaurants - especially since we're a table of 6. Works out nicely that hotels are cheaper during the week than they are on the weekends too. And the significantly shorter border wait is another huge plus. Thankfully, Nathan's job (self-employed home builder) allows us to go during the week.

Anyway, it had been one of those fairly hot, muggy days that just feels like a storm's a comin'. We were finishing up our shopping for the day at Walmart and had just finished putting all our purchases in the cart and were heading for the till when we heard an announcement over the speaker system which said something like this....

"Attention all customers and staff. This is a Code Black. All customers and staff please proceed to the electronics department at the back of the store."

We had no idea what a Code Black was, but considering a major gust of wind had just blown down some displays, we had a fairly good guess.

At first the girls weren't too nervous. They were wondering what was going on, but seemed relatively unconcerned.

When we got to the electronics department the staff directed us to stand in the area between two pillars that were grey in colour as it was the most structural sound part of the store area. We had only been there a minute or two when suddently the entire store was plunged into pitch darkness as the power went out. I immediately reached out to the girls near me (Jacob was in the front of the cart and Olivia was sitting in the rear section of the cart) and said "It's ok, it's ok". Thankfully the blackness only lasted momentarily as the emergency power source kicked on the emergency lighting. It was nothing like the lit up store we had been in only moments before, but at least we could see.

But now the girls were getting a bit nervous. A worker stopped by (I'm assuming because we had kids) to explain to us a bit more what was happening. I think it may have been a bit better for the girls if we hadn't received the extra information - ignorance is bliss and all that. She said that a Code Black was a severe weather situation and that a tornado had touched down somewhere close by but that's all they knew. They had no idea how long the Code Black would last but for now we just had to wait it out.

Meanwhile, practically every person there had their cell phones out - calling people, texting, tweeting and Facebooking. Some were crying and hugging each other, but most people seemed to be relatively calm.

A few minutes later they decided to direct us all to leave our filled shopping carts behind and head to the staff break rooms at the rear of the building. A few people refused to go back there - they felt is was more unsafe due to the proximity of the outdoor walls. But we figured that the management staff knew where the safest area was and we just had to trust them, though I would've preferred a basement shelter!

I found it disconcerting because we couldn't see what was going on outside. We had no idea of knowing how serious the situation was. I instant messaged my best friend, gave her a quick update of the situation and asked her to pray, especially since the kids were starting to get a bit upset.

As they were herding us to the back staff rooms, our oldest started to become very distressed, at one point she was leaning over and almost hyperventilating, shaking and crying in fear. We did our best to reassure her that these were just extra safe precautions they were taking to be on the safe side, and that they had to go overboard to make sure everybody was ok (similar things I was saying to myself in order to keep my own fear to a minimum and remain calm for the girls' sake). However, reason does not usually work well once fear has taken hold that much, so I just prayed for her quickly and quietly (but out loud so she could hear me) while we were heading back to the rooms.

We found a corner of the room and a couple of the kids sat on the floor while we waited. I prayed for Emma again and then dug in my purse for my phone to let Olivia play a game to keep her distracted - hey, whatever works right? A few minutes later an employee came in and announced that the weather had calmed enough that people could leave it they wanted to, though we were welcome to stay a bit longer till it calmed down more. At this Emma had a huge grin on her face - she told me that she had just prayed for God to give her a sign if we were going to be ok, and right then the employee came in and said the weather had calmed, so now she knew we were going to be ok. It was so sweet. She wanted to wait longer before leaving so I sat down in a chair vacated by a man who had left immediately and held Olivia who was easily calmed and then we waited some more. Fairly soon, Nathan decided to take Jacob for a walk around the store because he was getting restless. Sophia was now showing signs of some distress so I moved Olivia to the floor to continue playing with my phone and held Sophia on my lap which calmed her down easily. After a few more minutes had passed, the employee returned to let us know the weather was ok and we could leave.

Jacob was completely unaffected by the entire thing. He tried to reassure the girls a few times "There's nothing to be scared, everything's ok". It was cute.

Unfortunately the power in the store was not back on, and even after it came on it would take an hour for them to have the tills up and running again. So, we left our cart of items behind and headed to Target! ;)

While we were there Emma started to feel sick. I'm not sure if she had had an adrenaline rush and this was the afteraffects of it, or if that's just normal after a stress-filled fear incident. So we quickly headed back to the hotel where she felt safe and could lie down. After more praying she was able to calm down and go to sleep - though she didn't want to eat the ice cream blizzards Nathan had picked up.

She was able to have a sound sleep, but the next day she had another episode of shaking, crying and feeling sick and I prayed over her again and also reasoned things out with her. We had come down on these holidays multiple times and this was the first time anything like this had ever happened, and that the very next day was probably the least likely day for it to happn again, blah, blah, blah. I told her that God was in control, that God was good, that God loved us, that God was with us no matter what happened and that we could trust Him. (I didn't tell her that that didn't mean we would for sure be safe. There's a time and a place for deep theological discussions, but this was not one of them!) She didn't eat a whole lot at lunch after that either, but since then she seems to have been ok.

We are very thankful for our physical safety and continue to pray that the kids (and Emma in particular) will not have fear related episodes related to storms in the future.

Who knew a trip to Walmart would turn out to be so eventful?


Jody said...

Sooo glad you guys are ok. That is super scary!!!

Andrea said...

If your girls (Emma especially) is anything like Joelle...there will always be a bit -- or a lot -- more panic now in stormy situations. Hopefully she will learn to deal with them though...I know I've had to, like it or not!!

Glad you were all safe. And while we had severe weather on our last trip there too, I'm glad we had the winter severe weather, and not the tornado scare!!!!


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