The sultry July afternoon in Northern New Jersey left us at the camp table yearning for the occasional cool breeze that flowed in from the north. It was summer, no doubt. My one weekend off this year and it had seemed that I picked the wrong one. Little did I know.
My fiancée and her 3 children had been troopers. They knew I had promised them a vacation even though it was all I could afford this year. I figured there was swimming, games for the kids and just some plain old “down-time” for my other half.
Our 3 other friends were atop the nearby hill gazing at the strange cloud formations in the distance. Just happy to be in the great outdoors.
About 4 o’clock that afternoon, a skirmish stirred at the general store perched on the hillside around 100 yards away or so. Several young men ran towards the campsites with whistles blaring in hand. “Why did they have whistles?”, I thought. Was this some sort of raid? Was this part of the entertainment?
As the campground attendants scampered into our site they told us a storm with high winds was on its way and that we should put away anything that might get loose. We somewhat quickly packed any loose items and started to pile them into our tents or the car as warned.
After grabbing the last item off of the camp table, we heard what sounded like a steam train coming up the mountainside. Our 3 friends on top of the hill ran down yelling “Tornado!….Tornado!” With nowhere to run and with the car now full of camp items loosely piled on the car seats. We jumped into the tent and held on for our lives.
The kids were screaming in terror as the tent folded in on itself from the vacuum of the tornado as it neared ever closer. The tent doorway was still unzipped…no time for that….the kids could see the terror approaching….I was beside myself. There wasn’t anything I could say or do to calm the kids down. I was terrified as were the kids and my fiance.
The wind was so strong that it pulled up on the rain-fly and straightened out one of the little ‘s’ hooks that secured it to the tent. I reached outside and held on as best I could as my 3 friends now arrived at the tent site to help me secure.
The tornado passed within 50 yards of my tent. The worst tornado seen in the area in years. Trees were twisted off of their trunks and thrown like toothpicks.
When it was over, the tent laid their like a limp dishrag. And as I pushed up the tent and peered out of the door, we all saw the devastation. An RV pushed aside by a tree, 6 feet thick, that had harpooned it like a whale. The once clean field was now a plethora of garbage and debris from the wind.
I still go camping because I know God was with us that day but my fiance and the kids don’t want to go camping with me anymore. (I’ll miss them!)
– By Rob Stout
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