The Storm On the Lake

By Sophia Rich

Photo by Dreamstime

About four years ago, Mom took my brothers and me to visit some family friends at Priest Lake in Idaho. Our friends were wealthy enough to have two houses in the area; we were lucky enough to get to stay in the one closest to the lake. The house was cozy and the living room had a glass wall facing the lake. We couldn’t see the lake from the house because there were so many tall pine trees between us and the lake, but if we followed a little trail through our own personal forest, we would eventually come to the family’s private dock on Priest Lake. On our very first day, my two younger brothers and I swam around in the lake near the dock while our friends showed Mom the property, paying special attention to the trees which were their favorite feature.

The next day Mom decided to go get groceries for the weekend. The nearest grocery store was a good long drive from the lake house and Mom was worried about the dark storm clouds on the horizon. She figured it would be best to be prepared in case thunderstorms kept us indoors. I was just weeks away from my 18th birthday so Mom put me in charge of my brothers—Brandon, who was 15, and Spencer, who was seven—while she was away. Confident in my abilities, I told Mom not to worry about us.

Not long after she left, the clouds began to thicken above the lake and rain began to fall. So much for spending time in the lake. I tried to entertain my brothers with games. Brandon and I were just beginning to teach Spencer how to play Dutch Blitz when the wind began to pick up. We could hear it whistling around the house, making it creak and groan. Outside the glass wall, we could see the trees swaying like languid fingers of seaweed. As we played, the wind began to blow harder and harder and the trees went from swaying like seaweed to jerking like whips. The power went out very suddenly, but there was still enough light from outside for us to see, so the three of us scooted closer to the glass wall and continued playing. At one point during our game, however, I felt the sudden urge to look up.

Through the glass wall of the living room, I could see the trees beginning to bend in the direction of the house. I gasped and Brandon snapped his head up to look too. There was no question about it—the trees were bending dangerously close to the house. One of the trees kept dipping down so close that its upper branches brushed the roof. Without saying a word, my brother and I came to the same conclusion: we needed to get away from the window. Now.

We knew from survival classes at school that if a tornado is in progress the best thing to do is to get down into the basement. After a quick and somewhat frantic sweep of the house, we realized there was no basement. Panic set in. I grabbed Spencer and Brandon and scooped up our game. We found a doorway that looked fairly sturdy and huddled beneath it. We prayed that God would keep us safe. Brandon set up a new game of Dutch Blitz to distract Spencer while I watched the trees.

Suddenly, there were several loud cracks. Through the glass wall of the living room, which we could still see from the doorway, I saw every single tree on the property start to fall in the direction of the house. It was as if a giant hand were pushing all the trees down at once. I clutched Brandon’s arm, our game forgotten, and we watched the world slow down, too scared to scream. This is it, I thought, and braced myself for the crunch of caving roof and shattering glass.

It never came. As suddenly as the trees began to fall, they changed direction. Rather than falling toward the house, every tree on the property fell parallel to the house like dominoes on a meticulously constructed track. We suddenly had a completely unobstructed view of the lake. The very first thing we did was wrap our arms around each other and thank God for saving us. Whenever my faith starts to get lukewarm, I remember the image of 30 trees crashing simultaneously to the ground and know that God is the most powerful force in our world.