In the aftermath of the Nashville area tornadoes, and with the “tornado” of the coronavirus swirling around us, I am reminded of a powerful storm that took place many years ago and on another continent. Fortunately, the number killed and injured was far less than during the recent Nashville area disaster.

The year was 1987. I was a journalist who, by this time, had been living and working in London for almost seven years. My career had recently become less of a priority, though, following my marriage to an Englishman and fellow journalist.

What would eventually become known as the Great Storm struck southern and central England during the night and early morning hours of October 15-16, 1987.  As was the case with the Nashville storm, there was virtually no warning. Then, as happened here much more recently, the weather forecasters failed to predict what was coming.

In another similarity to the Nashville storm, there had been a lot of rain in England during the weeks leading up to the Great Storm. Could this have been a clue as to what was to come? I hadn’t really noticed the weather, perhaps because I was pregnant at the time and more than a little preoccupied with the baby’s health as well as my own.

After gathering strength out over the Atlantic, the storm barreled across the edge of Northern France before racing further north and east across the English Channel.

Later, the storm would be described as the worst to strike the UK since 1703.

No one, other than those who survived the Blitz, had ever experienced anything like it. 

And while there’s never been a Blitz in Nashville—or, thankfully, anywhere else in the continental United States—the survivors of the recent Nashville tornadoes can almost certainly say that they know what it’s like now coming under aerial bombardment.

In yet another parallel to the Nashville tornadoes, most of us living in England at the time of the Great Storm were asleep in our beds when it hit, tearing trees out of the ground and pummeling England’s many aged and fragile structures. Why is it that the worst storms always seem to strike during the middle of the night when people are at their most defenseless? (And in a parallel to the current coronavirus situation, the stock markets worldwide crashed the Monday after the Great Storm.)

Far along in my pregnancy, I was alone when the storm made landfall. My husband was away on a business trip, which only served to heighten my concern, and even fear, as I lay trembling in bed with the baby trembling inside me.  

Even in the face of almost indescribable destruction, people recovered surprisingly quickly from London’s Great Storm, and Middle Tennesseans are showing signs of doing the same, even though obviously for many life will be continue to be far from easy.

Indeed, the needs of the survivors remain vast and urgent. Unfortunately, the March 3 disaster has since been upstaged—perhaps understandably—by news of the ever-expanding coronavirus pandemic. 

In the aftermath of any storm, and even now, during the ongoing coronavirus “storm,” we’re reminded of the fact that nature is a force far greater than any of us can ever truly understand.

As the minister of my church said during a special service for the Nashville area tornado victims, we cannot help but wonder: Where is God in all this? An unanswerable question, no matter what the tragedy or crisis. Nevertheless, the people of Nashville, like the people of the United States in general, are a people of strength and courage and as such will undoubtedly move forward in trust and hope.