I never was afraid. Never afraid of the thing I loved. Though I should have been, it gave me life when it could only bring death. It also never surprised me. It shocked millions of people over and over, every spring and summer. Yet I knew. I knew that it was going to happen. And thus it never surprised me. Except once. The one time I let my guard down. I took a horrible, unnecessary risk, and that risk could have ended everything. Let me tell you.

It was June of 2021. Nothing was incredibly new or different from 2016. Me and my friends, Jennifer and Garrett, took upon ourselves to drive to Kentucky for a summer vacation from college. I was a weather major. Jenny was an art major, and Garrett and audio and visual effects major. We were a weird bunch, I'd say, but we were great friends. We still are, actually. We were about a quarter way through Missouri, when we stopped in Joplin to refill the gas in our van and to get some snacks.

"Your change is $3.37." Said the cashier at the register.

"Thank you." I said, grabbing the change and throwing it into the plastic bag.

"Have a nice day!" The woman called out after me.

"You too!" I smiled at her and walked out the door to were Garrett was filling the van. As I walked around to Garrett, he looked up and smiled at me.

"Hey." He looked between me and the bag and smiled even bigger. "Whatcha got there?" He tried snatching the bag from me but I moved it out of the way.

"Stuff for along the way, you twat." I poked him in the stomach and threw the bag of junk food in the van.

"Abby!" I turned at the call of my name and saw Jenny running towards me from the gas station.

"Had a successful piss?" I asked her, crossing my arms and raising an eyebrow. Garrett chuckled behind me.

"Well that depends on what you call 'successful'." She smirked. I laughed a little and she continued. "So the cashier lady said that we should probably turn our radio on in case of weather alerts." I nodded.

"But the sky is so clear! What could happen today?" Garrett asked.

I swiftly turned on him and focused on his bright blue eyes. "As you might be right, you can't let your guard down. Weather can destroy everything." I turned around and started towards the back of the van. "I'll check the pressure and if its not very low or high we should be fine." Jenny and Garrett looked at each other, then back at me and nodded. I had already set up my gear and was checking the radar, pressure, and temperature. I shrugged. "The radar's clear and the pressure is decent. The temperature is 74°f so we should be alright." I was a little unsettled because the pressure wasn't decent, it was actually slightly low, but I reassured myself by thinking that at most it would cloud over.

I put away my gear and got into the driver's seat of the car. Garrett got in the passenger and Jenny in the back. We drove off towards the east. In about ten minutes, the sky clouded over and grew fairly dark.

"Abby..." Jenny started. Jenny and I were born and raised in the Midwest. Garrett and I were raised in the mountain area of Colorado, he never really knew about severe storms because in Colorado, its very mild.

"Yeah, I think we best turn on the radio." I said, pressing a couple of buttons and successfully turning it on.

Garrett looked at me, confused. "I thought you said everything would be okay?" I shrugged.

"I still think so. But you never know." The radio played some of the current pop music before the emergency system sounded.

"Attention, a large and severe weather system has been indicated by the Doppler Radar by the National Weather Service. Strong thunderstorms and golf ball sized hail have been predicted with this storm. We advise that you take shelter in your homes." I looked at Garrett and I could see the fear in his eyes. I smiled at him.

"We'll be fine. I promise." I patted his leg. He smiled back at me, but his eyes betrayed the fear that the radio warning had placed in him. A seed of worry began to sprout in my gut as we kept driving. I knew we had to find a town, to we could take shelter, but the closest town was twenty-seven miles away. The sky darkened and a light rain began to fall. The wind picked up slightly. Garrett gripped his jeans slightly as panic began to swirl within him. Jenny looked out the window indifferent as she was used to the weather. We neared the town and that's when I knew I was mistaken.

"No. We have to find shelter, now." They both looked at me. "I can feel it. There's something coming, whether or not they have predicted it, it's coming." I had a knack for predicting weather without any equipment. Usually I was right, but there were those rare times when I was wrong. By the time we pulled into the small town, it had begun hailing pebble sized hail, and the sky grew a dark, sickly green. Garrett's breathing grew heavy at the sight of the unusual weather, and Jenny looked a little unnerved. My mouth was a thin line as the stress of getting us to safety overwhelmed me.

Then the radio went off. "Attention, tornadic weather has been spotted in the county of..." It grew static for a moment before continuing. "Get to shelter immediately and out of harm's way. Softball sized hail is predicted with this storm. Wind speeds up to 100mph are predicted. Torrential rainfall and falling trees are also predicted." Then it went silent.

"What does-" Garrett started, before the radio went off again.

"Attention, a tornado has touched down east of Crystal. Its winds speeds are estimated at 198mph. This tornado is strengthening. Take cover immediately. Severe damage is expected."

The broadcast ended and Garrett looked at me with wide, frightened eyes. "What's going to happen? We're in Crystal!" He cried.

"I'll find a way to get you guys safe. I promise." I answered. Garrett continued to look at me.

"And what about you?" I pulled into a gas stations parking lot.

"I'm prepared to put you guys first. And you should be too." I looked away from him and got out of the car, Jenny following me. Quickly, We all ran into the gas station. The few cashiers and custodians were huddled up with some customers in a corner. "Everyone! A tornado is on its way, we must take shelter!" I called. They all looked at me with scared eyes. Then a worker, who I thought to be the manager, walked over to me.

"Ma'am, we don't know where else to go..." He trailed off as fear clouded over him.

I thought for a minute, thinking about what I learned in college and my own personal knowledge of past tornados. Suddenly a thought came to me. "Do you have a large beer cooler?" I asked. The boy looked taken aback.

"Well yes... Why?"

"How large is it empty?" I didn't bother to explain.

He seemed to begin to understand. "...Enough to hold about everyone in here!" He turned around to the other workers and told them our plan. "Clear out the beer cooler! We have to get these people to safety!" He turned back to me. "How long do you think we've got?" I could see how terrified he was. If any of these people died, it would be on him, weighing him down forever.

"I- I don't know.." I answered. I didn't need to know how to respond as lightning struck right outside the door, electrifying the air. "Not long. Even if the cooler isn't completely empty get people in there." He nodded and ran off to help his coworkers.

"Its 1:00..." Jenny said. I turned to look out the glass doors and saw that it was almost completely black. The sky only brightened up by the lightning. I turned back, my mouth thin again. "Come on. Let's get into the cooler." We walked over to the cooler and stood behind the manager and a worker who were wedging themselves in. Jenny got in first, and then Garrett. He tried his best to get in comfortably.

He was standing outside the cooler, thinking of a way to move everyone so they would be comfortable when a roaring sound started up outside the station.

"Get in!" I shoved Garrett in and shut the door.

"Abby!" I heard their muffled screams for me behind the door. I grabbed the knob as tightly as I could to support myself against the bombardment that awaited me. I was silent for a moment, and I knew that in that moment, I was about to experience the most powerful force of nature on this planet.

And then it took me. I flew through the air, being battered by debris from the gas station and the building by it. I never blacked out. I was conscious the entire time. It felt like the wind was being knocked out of me.

I was still flying. I tried to look to see how high I was, where I was. As I did a glass shard raked over my eye. It felt as if the blood was coming from a gash that started at my eyebrow, down to my cheek.

The tornado was relentless. It held me close as it abused me. It refused to let me go unscathed. I let myself relax. I knew that I could no longer control what happened.

I wondered through my mind, remembering my young memories, and my family and friends. I prayed that if I must go, that Jenny and Garrett live. I would have never thought, that all my time of studying weather that this would have happened to me.

Then I thought, what if... I live? I would have been fully able to see what happened while in a tornado. I forced myself to open my eyes to a squint to see what was happening in the core of the twister. I only looked for a second before I was struck wit piece of wood. I shut my eyes in pain and soundlessly screamed.

I began to grow lightheaded. I brought my hand up to my eye which had been cut and tried to hold in the blood so I wouldn't pass out.

Then I felt the weight of gravity pulling me down. I had been thrown out of the tornado. I both fell and glided down to the ground. I fell onto a tree, to which I grabbed to steady myself as I felt nauseous and dizzy.

"Abby!" I saw Jenny and Garrett running towards me with a few other people. My vision began to darken and my eyes rolled back into my head. "No..." Was my last thought before I blacked out.

When I woke up, my vision was blurry. The only thing I could see was white. I tried moving but a sharp pain to my side stopped me. I waited for my vision to return to normal.

After a little while, I realized I could only see out of my right eye. I lifted my hand and touched what should have been my left eye. But instead I felt a soft cloth covering the expanse of my eyebrow to my cheek.

I looked down at myself with the one good eye I had left, and saw that I was pretty badly damaged. My leg was in a cast, and a bind or a cloth was wrapped around my breasts to my stomach. It also looked like I had a fairly nasty cut on my right arm. There was probably more I couldn't see.

The door to the room I was in swung open as a nurse walked in. She was backing in with a metal cart full of new cloths and creams. She turned around and saw me watching her, and she gasped. "You're awake! Oh my god! This is a miracle!"

She ran out into the Hallway and I heard her scream it again, calling other nurses and doctors to see me.

Her and another woman ran in and quickly changed my cloths and my IV. They were babbling nonsense and then they ran out just as fast as they came in.

"Is no one going to tell me what's going on?" I thought to myself.

Suddenly, Jenny and Garrett walked in. Jenny sighed with relief and with a huge smile, gave me a light hug. Garrett though, looked at me with a hurt expression.

"I thought we lost you." I heard him choke up. "I survived the tornado. I was awake the whole time." My voice was hoarse. "Wh- what happened after you guys found me?" I asked.

"We called an ambulance. They took you to the Joplin hospital and you were in vital condition. You... You almost died." Jenny said. She started to cry lightly.

"Almost? How?" I pressed on.

"Well, your ribs were broken. The cut on your eye is pretty deep, and you lost a lot of blood. You've basically been in a coma for two weeks." Garrett finished.

"I've been in a coma!" I exclaimed. "But how?!"

"Abby, you were just thrown through a tornado. You're not going to be perfectly healthy." Jenny snorted.

I was quiet for a minute. "Was everyone else okay?" I asked.

"We had the manager get cut on his leg, but they all survived." Garrett reassured me. I closed my eyes. They had lived.

"Thank you." I thought. The prayer I sent had worked. A smile played its way onto my lips. Opening my eyes, I looked at them both. "Well, at least I'm not dead, right?" Jenny laughed slightly, but Garrett still didn't budge. "Oh what's wrong with you now? I lived. You lived. We all lived. Isn't that good enough for you?" I mocked him.

"No." He said blatantly. "You saved my life. And if I haven't been taking too long to get in the cooler, you wouldn't be hurt right now." He turned away from me, and I could tell he was crying.

I gave an exasperated sigh. "Look," I began. "Even if you think it's your fault, it's not."

He looked at me. "Then who's is it?" He asked sarcastically.

I took in a shaky breath. "Mine." They both looked at me in confusion. "I should've taken better precaution about the pressure. I saw it was low. I was the one driving. I was the one who put you in the cooler and didn't get in after. I broke myself." I couldn't bear to see the pity or sympathy in their eyes, so I looked away.

"Abby..." One of them had placed their hand on mine, but the doctor came in and they quickly removed it.

She saw me awake and laughed. "Aha! You're a tough one aren't you! You flew with a tornado and survived! Ha! That's impressive!" She smiled. "You seem to be healing pretty well too. In approximately a day or two, we should be able to get you out of here on a wheelchair and some antibiotics."

She rummaged through her clipboard of papers to find the prescription. She placed the paper next to me on the little table and looked at me in the eye. "Congratulations. I'm so proud of you. You came so close to death, and the thing that kept you from it was you fighting to live. You wanted something. You wanted something so bad you came back from the dead to get it." She smiled at me. "Continue to live. Everything is going to be so much better now." She patted my arm lightly and left.

I stared after her for a moment and let her words sink in. I turned to my friends. "Did I... Flat line?" Jenny turned away and started sobbing.

"Multiple times..." Garrett said, his hand forming into a fist.

I stared at him. I needed to know. "How many times?" I saw how it was deeply affecting both of them.

"... Three. You... Died three times..." He answered. He voice was barely more than a whisper.

"You only were gone for a few seconds, and the doctor said it was because of the medical drugs they used to put you into the coma, but it was terrifying nonetheless." Jenny added softly, tears silently falling off her face.

"... It's okay now. I won't flat line, at least for a long while. If death didn't take me then it won't take me now." They both smiled. Then a nurse walked in.

"Garrett, your mother is on the line." Garrett then looked at me apologetically and left the room. I was alone with Jenny.

"I thought I lost you forever when you shoved Garrett in that cooler" She sat down at the end of my hospital bed and covered her eyes with her hands. "I thought it was my fault. You're injured. And I can't fix you. I don't know what to do." I looked at her sympathetically.

"No. You don't have to fix me. You may want to but this is beyond your control. The only thing you can do is be there for me." She nodded. This was her. Protective even though she couldn't change a thing.

After a few minutes of silence, Garrett came back in the room.

"Well Abby," he began. "Any more advice on tornados?" He asked with a smirk.

I paused for a moment and looked at them both.

"Don't be afraid."