So many tears. So many memories, So much devastation.
Tornadoes ravage large cities, tiny towns and mid-sized suburbs across our country quite frequently and with evergrowing force and destructive powers, especially during this season between cold and hot. All those who suffer this fate receive my sympathies and my prayers; and yet, not all of them hit home, both literally and figuratively.
Yesterday, Moore, OK, a suburb between Oklahoma City and Norman was slammed by an extremely large and menacing monster of a twister. By evening, scores were counted as injured, at least 24 killed, but maybe more, hundreds of houses blown to smithereens and at least two schools demolished with kids and teachers inside. Heartbreaking.
But this is not the first time a terrible, twisting force of nature has traveled this path. Fourteen years ago, on May 3, 1999, a huge and powerful tornado tore up a swath of land in this exact location, killing 36 and destroying a community and wreaking havoc across the small state.
Fourteen years ago on May 3rd 1999, I was living in Norman, OK. I was just finishing up my second year of law school at OU. I was hunkered down under a couch with my best friend, Jennifer, with my 2 cats in their carrier in between us, listening to KFOR on the radio, after losing the cable signal. I heard the reports of destruction; I heard the fear and excitement in the reporters' voices; and I heard the devastation of loss and confusion in the wandering, dirty and bloodied, newly homeless residents of Moore, OK, just a few miles up the road.
Later, I bought blankets and pillows and drove as far as we could North on I-35 to drop off the provisions at a makeshift shelter. I waited for the TV to come back on and cried at the reports coming in. I sat frozen in my own untouched apartment listening and waiting and scared as tornadoes popped up in the dark all night long.
Yesterday, the tears streamed down my face when I got a text from my husband saying there was a bad tornado going through Moore and a school had been hit. I cried because I remembered the devastation. I cried because I knew what monster tornadoes in OK can do. I cried because I'm a parent.
I immediately tuned in to KFOR and began reliving that awful day fourteen years ago. The same anchors were there. The same images popped up on the screen. The same scared, confused, shocked voices were heard, report after report. But, the devastation even worse; this time, the tornado was over 2 miles wide, rather than a 1 mile wide tornado of 1999.
The focus was on one of the two elementary schools decimated in the monster's path. I couldn't tear away, just as I couldn't fourteen years ago. I watched, I listened, I prayed, I cried and I missed my friend Jennifer who passed away last summer.
The similarities were eerie, but the difference for me was that this time I am a mom. I could not stop putting myself in the shoes of those kids' parents; frantically waiting or feverishly trying to get down the road to the school or desperately working to reach anyone by phone.
The tears continued to flow through the reports of the third graders unaccounted for and the later reports that the search had turned from rescue to recovery of at least two dozen students. My heart is absolutely broken as I think about and pray for those kids' families.
You must understand that OK has some of the best weather coverage in the country. These meteorologists and reporters take the weather seriously. They go live and stay live and warn and pass along information and mourn and report and share and save lives.
The sheer force and power of these storms certainly shows us how very little we control and how very quickly life can take a very sharp turn. We are but a tiny piece of God's creation. We are not so powerful as to prevent such storms that are whipped up by nature.
Many people lost everything they had; family members, homes, pets, possessions, vehicles; their confidence was shaken; their faith rattled; their resolve tested.
Fourteen years ago, people lost these things too, but they rebuilt; they added safe rooms and storm shelters this time; they moved on, but they did not forget. They will do the same again, but right now life is shattered. These people are Oklahomans; Sooners; Settlers. Over and out...