I couldn’t believe what I was hearing in the National Weather Service forecast. I don’t recall that I had ever heard the word, “blizzard,” associated with a forecast in the Midwest. To me, that was a weather event that happened in Nebraska, Wyoming, Colorado, or Montana, but not the good ole’ Midwest.

It was the evening of Jan. 25, 1978, and we were living in a rural area of north central Illinois at the time. I was pastoring a church located in the open farmland 30 miles south of Peoria. We lived on a country road that was a mile off of a more prominent country road that was several miles away from the nearest state highway.

We had already toughed it through heavy snowstorms in 1977. A heavy blanket of snow was on the ground at the time of the blizzard warning. I couldn’t imagine what would happen if the predicted heavy snow and strong winds materialized, in addition to what was already there.

It didn’t take long to find out. By midnight, the winds were roaring around our little house and finding their way into every crack and cranny in our home. I peaked out the window and could see no farther than the mailbox in front of our home. We huddled in our chilly home and listened to the monstrous roar of the sycamore trees surrounding our house until daylight finally came.

The sight of drifts spiraling toward the roof of our church, covering our picnic table, and burying our cars was something I will never forget. And the roaring winds and blowing snow continued with reports of wind chills as low as -70 degrees. It was the infamous “Blizzard of ‘78,” an occurrence that anyone living then and now can tell tales about.

About mid-morning of that day, there was a desperate knock at our back door. I rushed to the door and discovered the frozen form of a lady who informed us that her husband and child were stuck in a car just down the road. Apparently they had panicked and tried to drive to her mother’s house in town, unaware of the impossible monstrosity occurring around them.

I bundled up and assisted the husband and child in to our home. The journey from the car to the house, I was against the wind and experienced bright red spots in front of my eyes as we gasped for air on our way to shelter. For the next several days, they hunkered in with us (Joyce and Julie). We played board games; Joyce and the lady cooked delicious meals, and we quickly warmed up to each other in the old pioneer spirit.

Adding drama to the experience was the fact that we were less than two weeks away from the birth of our second child, Sandi. I called our doctor and asked what I would do if “something would happen” and Sandi would decided to come early while we were snowed in.

“Call me and I’ll give instructions over the phone how to deliver a child,” she replied.

I nearly passed out from the shock of her statement.

Several days later, we heard one of the most tremendous sounds of the time, that of an end loader rumbling down the road and breaking trail through the 10-foot drifts that sat around us like a fortress in the midst of the prairies.

I still recall the “cave” that carved from our home to the major road a mile away. In order to get out, we were forced to drive to the opening of the “one mile cave,” check to see if another car was attempting to get through, and bravely advance. If another car was at either end, courtesy and common sensed demanded that the other car wait until the other passed before adventuring into the plowed out drifts.

That was 41 years ago this week. Anyone that remembers the event has a story, and no doubt, there will be certain reminders this week that might jog old tales that will make the survivors sound like the “old-timers” that used to talk about the blizzards they walked through on the way to the one-room school.

In the midst of the inconveniences of the time, one thing is certain. Everyone stopped what they were doing, relied on each other to dig out, and focused on the common bond of humanity rather than the demands of “normal life” around them.

As infallible as we may think that life is, things like blizzards, storms and disasters can remind us of our mortality and our need for each other. It’s that aspect, more than anything else, than I remember about the Great Blizzard of 1978.