“A Prayer in the Storm,” Ensign, Apr. 2002, 54–55
“Go faster, Mama,” I pleaded. I had never wanted anything so much as I wanted to be safely home with my family.
That summer evening in Amarillo, Texas, in 1955, I was five years old. My mother was driving me and my little brother and sister, Henry and Abby, home from church as a terrible rainstorm flooded the streets. Our father wasn’t with us because he had to be on duty at the fire station.
“I can’t go any faster,” my mother patiently answered me.
“If water splashes up on the motor, it’ll quit. Then we won’t be able to go anywhere.”
I held my breath as Mama coaxed our old, temperamental pickup through deeper and deeper water.
Then it happened. The truck sputtered and died. Now the only sound was the roar of the storm, which, it turned out, was no ordinary rainstorm at all but actually part of a tornado.
Mama tried to start the truck, but it refused to come back to life. She looked out into the storm. “I’ll be right back,” she told us. “I’m going to call someone for help.” As the door opened, the wind whipped cold rain at us for an instant. Then there was a slam and we were alone.
Time seemed to stall, and I feared we would never get home. As I sat there with my four-year-old brother and two-year-old sister, anxiously watching water pour down the windows, I noticed a flashing red light approaching. It wasn’t until the vehicle was beside us that we could tell for sure what it was.
“Daddy’s fire truck!” Henry cried.
“Daddy come! Daddy come!” said Abby. She reached out her little hand, opening and closing her fingers.
But the fire engine rushed on, taking our father away from us. My sister began to cry. Henry reached for the door handle. “I get Daddy!”
I grabbed him. “No, Henry! Mama told us to stay here!” I held on as tight as I could, but I wasn’t strong enough to stop him. He pulled away and went for the door again. Abby’s crying got louder.
Henry began to pull on the door handle. Panic stabbed me. I had to keep Henry in the truck. It was up to me to keep us safe. I had to do it, but I couldn’t. I felt helpless, afraid, and alone.
No, I wasn’t alone, I realized. A calm assurance replaced fear. I knew what to do. “Fold your arms,” I told my brother and sister. “We need to have a prayer.”
Henry’s resistance melted. He let go of the door handle, and he and Abby sat down on the seat beside me. We folded our arms and bowed our heads. I told Heavenly Father that we were stuck in this awful rain and asked Him to please make our truck start so we could go home.
We sat calmly and waited for Mama to come back. Before long, the truck door opened again. Mama reached out for me, explaining, “The lines are down, and I can’t reach anyone. The people in the house across the street said we could stay with them tonight.”
I knew there was no reason to leave. “Mama, you can start the truck now.”
“Jessie, I have tried. It won’t start.”
“But, Mama, it will this time. I know it will. We prayed.”
Mama climbed in and shut the door. She turned the key. The engine groaned and groaned, then sputtered and rumbled to life. Mama quickly left us to go tell the family across the street that the truck had started, then returned and drove on.
Rain, hail, wind, thunder, and lightning continued around us, but I felt delighted and grateful. Heavenly Father had answered our prayer, and we were going home.