Even with the fact of being here my whole life, it never gets easy to watch. The heart dropping sense of hopelessness never fades. Even if you live here and have never been through a tornado, as Oklahomans, you feel as if you do every single time one comes around. It’s engrained in all our lives. It can literally turn your world upside down. We know what to do after the storm too. You hold up your neighbor. You hurt as they hurt. You become the others crutch so you can help them get to the other side of all tornadoes: healing.
I have been through a few tornadoes. None that was a direct hit to my home but a couple that were within a few miles of me. That sounds pretty far to pretty much everyone except those that live here. When a storm can reach over two miles in diameter, those “few” miles become pretty important.
I was at work about 20 miles from Moore when it came through a few days ago. My wife, even further. When I heard it was headed for Moore, I shut down and was glued to my phone. My parents live just outside of Moore. I have friends in Moore.
I got home that Monday evening and started watching the news. I didn’t know the magnitude. At work I watched the weather on my phone to see how bad my drive might be. Even when you are used to these things, you never really expect what they can produce. I walked into my living room that evening where the TV was telling me about 250 mile an hour winds. A destructive path of 30 square miles. Showing bloodied people walking in the streets. Children wet and muddied from head to toe. Family pets scattered across the debris. Cars on top of cars. Shards of wood impaled through curbs.
Then comes the news that to this day I still think about. The elementary school that was flattened with many children unaccounted for under concrete.
You hope for the best news possible but you also at the same time understand that the very worst news is about to be reported. The very worst. And you grab whatever you can find for crutches.
Every time I think about it, I find myself holding on to something. A chair, the wall. Something. You don’t have to be directly involved with anyone in that school for your heart to drop. You need to simply have one.
One reason for this emotion may be in relation to the fact that we will soon be bringing our own baby into a world where you simply can’t protect them at all times. Imagine you are a parent of a student they can’t find and authorities won’t let you near the place you dropped them off that morning because it’s too dangerous to try searching yourself. Imagine it.
When the moment comes to call a search and rescue mission into a search and recovery for a class full of 3rd graders, life doesn’t make sense anymore. You can’t process that with any sort of sensible intellect. It’s impossible to do.
But somehow you do. Somehow you learn to process it. It may take a long time. But eventually you do. The human spirit is funny that way.
I saw a story on Facebook that was being passed around of someone trying to find this little girl. Not sure if it was her uncle, family friend, I don’t know. I shared it on my page. His words were in such a manner that you could read his fear. You could sense his desperation. I found out today that she didn’t make it. She went to school and didn’t make it home because of the weather. I’ll never understand it.
But I have to believe in something bigger. I have to believe in the strength of devastated parents that will find the will to make steps to recovery. I have to believe in the amazing strength of a state that has had its legs taken out time and time again, but stands tall. Always tall, even while on crutches at times. And I do. I see it every day.
We will soon see all the destruction carried away. Lives rebuilt from the ground up. It’s different here in Oklahoma because we know that whatever comes at us next, we each have an entire state to hold us up.
For us, Oklahoma isn’t just where we live. It simply means something more.