OKC is in my heart
No matter how far away I move, no matter how long I’ve been gone, I’ll always be an Oklahoman. OKC is home and always will be.
For all four of us at ThaWell, tornadoes were a common occurrence while growing up. Every spring brought the same narrative. I can remember being terrified in my younger years as the winds picked up and sirens blared warnings of imminent danger. As I got older, it became more of a game of determining exactly where the storm was at the moment and understanding where it was headed (per weather alerts on the news) enough to understand that we weren’t in danger. Then we’d go outside to see if we could see anything. The storms always missed my house.
Years of taking cover for storms all blend together. So much so that there are really only two storms that I remember vividly. The first was when I was about four or five years old. I remember it because I was terrified. It was pretty late, so it was almost pitch black outside. Tons of lightning accompanied by huge claps of thunder. Really high winds blowing tree limbs and leaves all over the place. My mom wasn’t home yet, and my dad kept scaring the crap out of me because he was intent on going outside to see if he could see anything. Even at that age I understood that tornadoes were bad news. The second storm I remember well was May 3, 1999. I was in high school, and a friend of mine was celebrating her birthday. I remember the drive home seeing the dark, ominous clouds in my rearview mirror. I remember getting home, and hearing my dad talk about a tornado skip across the lake about four miles from our house. That was one of several tornadoes produced by that storm that day. The most notable one was a one mile-wide monster that ripped through an almost identical path as the more recent May 20, 2013 tornado.
Years of seeing the same story play out over and over again has a way of desensitizing one to the devastation brought about by such storms. This, more recent, storm was somehow different for me. This tornado was just so big. Aerial shots of flattened neighborhoods, plus pictures of a destroyed medical center, plus stories of tragedy at one of two elementary schools… It’s a lot to take. So many people lost everything they had. Everything.
The part that stings worst of all is to see the children that were lost and to hear their stories. Aside from the fact that children lost their lives, it sucks to realize that all those tornado drills that each of them participated in for so long didn’t help. It turns out that lining up against an interior hallway wall, sitting cross-legged, with your head down doesn’t really help if all the walls are knocked down by 200mph winds. To be fair, the death toll likely would have been higher if they all remained in their classrooms, but it’s hard to prove that either way.
It’s also awful to see all these pictures of elderly people sitting in front of demolished homes with all the personal items they could salvage, waiting on direction for a place to stay. These are retired people with limited resources, and now, zero possessions. It’s A LOT to take.
Donations for people in Moore have been flowing in from all over the country, as they usually do for these types of events.That is a great thing. But unfortunately, no amount of money can undo the trauma one endures after facing one’s own mortality. No dollar figure is big enough to bring back a lost loved one. A house can be rebuilt, but it will never be the same home it was before.
My hope is that this never happens again. The reality is that it will. Maybe sooner than later. My prayer is that the people of Moore/South OKC will find strength in each other and in the Lord. The reality is that they will, but they will always bear the physical and emotional (and even economic) scars that go along with this loss. There will be healing, but healing does not equal erasing. Erasing would mean that the scars are gone. The scars, however, are necessary. Scars tell a story of resolve, a story of fortitude, a story of revitalization. Scars can remind us of past pain, but at the same time remind us of the many obstacles we’ve overcome. Every scar has a story, but the most important story that every scar tells is, “I was wounded. Then I healed.”
Until next time…