For as long as I can remember, I have been fascinated by lightning. Though to be honest, I don’t think ‘fascinated’ fully captures my feelings towards it. I am by no means not afraid of lightning, but somehow my trepidation mixed with my naivety of not fully understanding what lightning is creates this level of awe that makes it difficult to look away. As I write this, I am sitting in a tiny plane on my way from Miami to Richmond, Virginia. And of course, it being summer in Florida there are pockets of thunderstorms everywhere. As I stare out of the window and see the forks of lightning dance through the thick clouds, I think I should be a little more scared concerned, but as I stare out of the window I wish I had more than my iPad to capture the moment when the black clouds turn pink.
I was eleven years old when I actively witnessed my first electrical storm. I say actively because I wasn’t hiding underneath the covers waiting for thunder whenever I saw a flash in the sky. Every day after school I walked to my cousins’ house and waited for my Dad to pick me up after work. Their house, Old Fort, overlooks the St. George’s Harbour on one side, and the national stadium on the next, and from the right vantage point you can see both. On this particular day the right vantage point was up on the roof.
I don’t remember that day being overcast or stormy; I don’t even think it rained, but somehow that ordinary day turned electric. I was working on my homework when my older cousin came to the table to ask if I wanted to go see fork lightning. I was scared of everything back then: loud noises, heavy rain, being alone at home, so usually I would’ve said “no way!” But I put away my notebook and agreed. I followed my cousin up the ladder and through the skylight onto the roof. I remember the awe I felt sitting on the cold, galvanised metal roof trying to keep my school skirt down, staring at the lightning. From where we sat it seemed like the forks were going straight into the sea. I asked my cousin if the lightning was electrocuting the fish, and that’s why they were washing up dead on the beaches.
*Side note: in 1999, scores of dead fish washed up on our beaches, and no one ever figured out why.*
In hindsight, sitting on the roof during an electrical storm was stupid, but there was no rain and no thunder. Being up on that roof, though, watching the magic unfold before my eyes, not allowing my fear to consume me in that moment, well, that was perfect.
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