Saturday, July 11 2020 - 12:53 AM
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Boy in the Storm

The day of January 25, 1978, had been favorable—rain and fog, a little misty, but the temperature a mild 40 degrees—when I clocked in at the factory where I worked nightshift. Earlier that evening, unbeknown to me, the National Weather Service had issued blizzard warnings; and during the predawn hours on January 26, 1978, as I sorted glassware at the end of a conveyor belt, The Blizzard of ‘78 pushed into central Ohio.

Bitter cold and howling winds rapidly plunged temperatures to below freezing. By the time my shift ended at 7:00 a.m., it was excruciatingly cold outside.

Bumping over large craters of frozen slush, I drove the several blocks to my home, listening to a steady stream of weather reports on the car radio: Many homes were without power and heat. Interstates and highways were closed, as were schools and businesses. People were being warned that it was especially dangerous to venture outside.

When I arrived home, I was wet and cold through and through. I immediately turned up the heat and  piled under some heavy blankets on the sofa. Later, I made breakfast and then headed back through the living room to go upstairs. Sleepy and tired and still cold, all I wanted to do was jump into bed and sleep the day away.

I was walking past the front window, overlooking an elementary school across the street, however, when I thought I saw the shadowy form of a child slip around the corner to the back of the school. My mouth dropped open. It couldn’t be. Why would anyone be out in such weather?

I flattened my nose against the window pane to make certain I was seeing right. All I saw now was swirling snow. I waited, expecting the child (if indeed I’d seen a child) to come back around the side of the building. Nothing.

It’s only your imagination, I told myself. And I’d only caught a momentary blur of something. I continued on upstairs.

I’d reached the top of the stairs, however, when a voice as real as though the words had been spoken aloud made me stop short. There’s a possibility that a child is out there, and if so, he will surely die if you don’t go out and check, it said. Dreading what I knew I had to do, I nevertheless padded back downstairs, put on my boots, grabbed my coat and scarf, and waded out into the storm again.

The storm had strengthened since I’d arrived home and lashing wind gusts now cut my face with needles of sleet as I stumbled over the hardened snow and swirls of chunky slush. I was quickly chilled to the bone again. But I plodded on.

I found the boy huddled on the frozen ground near the rear entrance of the school, waiting for the bell to ring, his arms clutched tightly to his chest. A film of icy snow had already settled upon his head and shoulders. He was perhaps eight or 10 and wore no boots, hat, or gloves. His lightweight coat was unzipped. Without saying a word, I held out my hand. He took it.

Back in my living room, I bundled him up in a blanket (barring being severely cold, there didn’t seem to be anything physically wrong with him) and called the police station. Within minutes a policeman showed up and drove him home. It was only many days later that I learned the boy’s mother was not in the habit of getting up to see him off to school. So, not knowing classes had been cancelled because of the storm, he had gone to school.

Since the deadly storm those many years ago, I’ve thought of the incident from time to time and the miracle of having glanced out the window at just the precise moment the boy slipped around the corner of the school. Was it nothing more than a fortuitous accident of time and place? I believe it was something much bigger than that.

Barbara Weddle writes from Kentucky.

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About Barbara Weddle

Barbara Weddle

writes from Kentucky.

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