How do you record tragedy in your life?

 
 

It’s not a great memory. But I was there, it’s part of my history and I still think of it often. But why is sharing not always easy? This experience was folded into a traumatic period of my life already, and I tend to keep sad storytelling inside, but I know that others need to share. How do you share tragedy?

It was a cloudy but hot August afternoon in 1973, football practice on a grassy park field on the south side of Des Moines. We were 7th and 8th graders in the Catholic Football League. The weather was taking a turn for the worse, and it started drizzling – which cooled down the hot day. But then, lightening started in the distance, and the rumbling in the sky grew. The coaches didn’t stop practice…maybe they weren’t paying enough attention, or maybe they didn’t realize how quickly the storm was approaching.

Then, suddenly, we all felt a blow – an overwhelming, stunning hit, knocking us to the ground. Yes, lightening had hit the field. It took some moments before I got up and saw that three boys were still down and unconscious.

It seemed forever for EMS to arrive (ironically cell phones were first tested that year, but would not be available for a generation). I remember them struggling to run all their equipment out on the field. The boys were taken to the hospital. I still remember laying in my bed that night praying that they would live. But one boy died that night.

They say that the odds of being struck by lightning are over a million to one; you’re more likely to win the lottery. Lightning strike fatalities average 30 U.S. deaths a year, and none in Iowa most years. But not 1973.

What a story to share. How do you share sad stories?