A blizzard was bearing down on the east coast. My family was busy preparing. Our three boys packed up and fled to a friend’s farm to ride it out—and have a little fun in the snow. As a nurse, my husband planned to stay at the hospital in case of emergencies.
And me? I was blissfully unaware of anything going on at home in Pennsylvania. Three days before, I flew out of Philadelphia International Airport for a conference in Chicago.
There had been no mention of a potential storm before I left. I had checked in at home a couple of times. My husband said they were going to get a snowstorm, but it shouldn’t be a big deal.
In Chicago, nothing was out of the ordinary—until we tried to leave.
When we arrived at O’Hare for our return flight, there were some delays, some cancellations. But our flight was still “on time.”
The frenzy among travelers was the first alert that something extraordinary was happening back home.
Our flight was canceled just before the entire board switched from delayed to canceled.
Realizing hotels would soon be overwhelmed, our party of four women sprinted to the nearest bank of phones, hurdling suitcases, leaving the more refined business travelers in our wake.
We had no pride, didn’t care about appearing dignified, and just did what had to be done to avoid sleeping at the airport.
We each took a phone and went to work. I found a room at a Hampton Inn, one of the last available in the city. Getting the attention of our group, I nodded affirmation, and we all hung up, wishing the next in line good luck.
We grabbed the airport shuttle to our hotel and switched on the TV. Now that the city was overrun with angry east coasters, and O’Hare had turned into a makeshift Holiday Inn, the far-off blizzard was a news story.
Then they showed what was happening back home.
They were calling it “the storm of the century.”
I called my husband to let him know I wouldn’t be coming home for a few days. He wasn’t surprised but assured me the boys were having fun with their friends and would be safe there.
He was going to stay at the hospital for a few days in case he was needed.
I spent the next four days away from the storm. The weather was lovely in Chicago, sunny and cold, perfect for sightseeing in the windy city in January.
We called the home office of our company and were invited to come have lunch there and tour the plant.
They sent a long, black limo for us.
We were treated like royalty. The limo driver was friendly and informative. On our way back to the hotel, he said, “You have me for the rest of the day. Is there somewhere you’d like to go?”
We explained that we were only planning to be in Chicago for three days, but now it looked like we would be there twice that long. We needed some “essentials.”
He offered to drive us to Target.
The limo pulled up to the front of Target. We waited for our driver to let us out and off we went. We found the things we needed and regrouped back at the entrance. Our limo appeared within seconds.
The driver hopped out, opened our door, and we all piled into the cavernous interior. The driver took his seat behind the wheel and couldn’t hide his laughter.
He said, “I just have to tell you what happened. After I dropped you off, I pulled over to the side to wait.
The look on the faces of people in the parking lot was priceless. Some of them were on their way out but turned around and went back into Target. I’m sure they thought you were celebrities.”
I said, “That explains the very strange looks from people in the store. Who but a celebrity would take a limo to Target to buy underwear?”
We all got a good laugh as we continued our celebrity tour of Chicago, while our families dug out from under three feet of snow.
Four days later, we returned home. Landing at the airport, it was hard to tell that there had been a blizzard. There was more snow at the car park but not incredible amounts of snow.
Driving home, the roads were clear and dry. The farther north and west we went, the more snow we found. Driving through my small town, the snow was piled so high I couldn’t see around the corners at intersections.
Day 4 post-blizzard: we had electricity, the streets were clear, the sidewalks shoveled, and our boys had returned home (via snowmobile).
Other than the fact that there was snow that dwarfed my two-year-old, everything was normal.
My experience with the Blizzard of ‘96 made me wonder how often are my friends and family members going through difficult storms of life, but I am unaware?
In my world, everything is sunny and worry-free, and from my perspective, their lives are the same.
It challenged me to be more in tune with the needs of those around me, to keep a keen eye on the storm clouds gathering over them.
I committed to offer a helping hand, pray with them as the storm swirls, or just be present in their time of need—much like Jesus does for me.
3 Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard, one another as more important than yourselves; 4 do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others. 5 Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 2:3-5)
Lisa Radcliff is a writer, speaker, women’s Bible study teacher, and a 35-year volunteer youth worker, residing in Pennsburg, PA. She is a wife, mom, and mom-mom who loves God’s Word but also loves football, chocolate, shoes, and Maine. Her hobbies include quilting, shopping, cooking, and raising Seeing Eye puppies. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org