It was around 3 a.m. that our house started to shake, the walls reverberating as the thunder boomed outside.

Itís not often that our kids end up in bed with us anymore. But they did that night. As the frequent lightning lit up our bedroom through the closed blinds, I tried to get some sleep despite being squeezed in a queen size bed with my husband and our two oldest kids, age 5 and almost 8.

I could either sleep on my left side and have my arms hanging off the side of the bed, or turn on my right and have my sonís hot breath blowing in my face. Needless to say, I didnít get much sleep. But I donít think I would have slept much anyways: We were under a tornado watch.

As I write this, our family is home today as schools are closed because of the threat of serious weather, including possible tornadoes. Itís somewhat odd to think that our schools close just as much for the threat of a snow flurries as they do tornadoes.

But for us, itís a part of life. Just like the summers in the South bring sweltering heat where you feel like you are swimming the moment you step outside, spring and early fall means one thing: Tornado weather.

One of my earliest memories is being at a babysitterís house and her rushing around cracking the windows because there was a tornado warning. I canít remember how many times, as a kid we crouched in the underground gymnasium storage closet at my elementary school because of the weather. When I was in college, a massive EF4 tornado caused major damage, killed 11 people and injured 125 others just south of Tuscaloosa, Alabama. I remember gathering in the basement of the sorority house after that storm, worrying if another tornado hit. My college best friend reasoned that if a tornado hit campus, it would just get sucked into Bryant-Denny Stadium and go round and round until it disappeared.

How funny to think that now.

As I got older, we reasoned that the tornadoes ďalwaysĒ went south of town, along the same path that the tornado took in 2000. On April 15, 2011, I stood in front of our glass storm door, looking out at my yard while I was on the phone with my mother, trying to calm her fears over a tornado watch. A tornado did touch down that day, although not near our house. It caused major power outages in Tuscaloosa, which meant a baby shower that was being thrown for me was held by candlelight. Closed roads and downed trees meant few people could make the party.

Still, tornadoes didnít make me afraid.

Only 12 days later, that changed, on April 27, 2011. Itís been almost 6 years since an EF-4 tornado tore a gash a mile wide across my city, including my neighborhood. The storm that day killed 53 people in Tuscaloosa and caused $2.4 billion in damage. Iíll never forget being 6 months pregnant and having to climb across giant, fallen oaks that cloaked my street and hid our homes from view. The smell of natural gas and the sound of chainsaws still bring me back to that time.

And yet, as I sit here on this April day, when Alabama is under a state of emergency because of the weather, and I feel like a survivor. Iíve been down that rabbit hole of destruction, wondering if and when our neighborhood and our city would recover. I know the guilt that comes when your home still stands, while the house across the street was destroyed. I remember fear that comes with being one of the only people on the block to be able to actually move back home days after the storm. Iíve been down that dark hole, but I also know the light on the other side.

The scars fade. Trees are replanted, homes are rebuilt. For weeks following the April 27, 2011 tornado, our yard was strewn with giant fallen oaks, their roots standing alert, almost tall as our house. The logs were cut and eventually the Federal Emergency Management Agency came to pick up the debris. The roots were so heavy that the chains snapped on the equipment that tried to load them up onto flatbed trucks. The front-end loaderís tracks buried deep into the asphalt in front of our house. While life around us has returned to normal these last 6 years, deep marks in the asphalt have been a stark reminder to me of what once was. But now, with our road recently repaved, even those scars have disappeared.

Life is different now. We respect the storms, we prepare, as much as anyone can. But as I lay squeezed in my bed last night with two of my three kids, I couldnít help but feel grateful, too.

My scars have faded, and I have been blessed. But I will not forget.

-- Lydia Seabol Avant writes The Mom Stop for The Tuscaloosa News. Reach her at lydia.seabolavant@tuscaloosanews.com.