Wednesday, May 22, 2013

7 miles

No doubt you have heard about the Tornado in Moore, Oklahoma.  The BBC was even out there.  It was surreal hearing them report from a place I have frequented over and over again saying words I recognize with their British accents.

It started right around afternoon rush here.  The same time as last year when I drove into the little twister that hit my city.  The one I ended up in trying to get to shelter.  So I was a little panicked.  I felt like we weren't moving fast enough.  We had our tornado bags packed from the day before, but wrangling the dogs was taking too long and I was worried about traffic slowing us down.  Then, the sirens went off.  I was trying not to get frantic.  Ever since I was in that one last year, I get a little more frightened than I used to.  I miscalculated and made a mistake and it could've been really bad.

So there T & I are, wrangling dogs, scrambling as the Weather people on the TV are screaming that it's coming down and it looks like North Norman and south Moore are in the path.

We are North Norman.  I kept repeatedly saying, "Not fast enough.  We're not fast enough!"

We're in the car and off we go.  I'm a little shaky.  Leela, our oldest dog, has her head out the window and is intently staring at the direction of the storm and sniffing the air.  She knows.  She was with me when I ended up in that tornado last year.

Police car after police car speed by us in the direction of the tornado.  We found out later, that they were trying to block the highways so that no one would unknowingly drive into it.

We get to our safe place and get underground.  

We set up our "base station" with laptops up, running seperate windows with the NWS Radar, KFOR livestreaming, KWTV Livestreaming, and that social media site that everyone uses.

We watched, every muscled tightened, as the tornado hit Newcastle and continued Northeast.  Unbelievably, it looked like it was going to hit Moore again.

Moore was hit in 1999 with the biggest tornado in then recorded history.  It was hit again in 2003.  This was unprecedented.  I was in Chickasha in 1999 when Moore was hit and watched it go by from a hilltop 30 miles away.  This tornado looked even worse.  Not only that, but the time of day it was hitting...I could barely let my mind finish the thought.  The Weather people were warning to get underground.

What I watched was horrific.  Tears started streaming down my face.  There were schools in the way.  They were seeking cover in halls.  HALLS!?  OMG.  My heart sank.  It was hitting the part of Moore T & I knew best.  Our theater, our Eye Doctor, stores we frequented, and streets we knew as well as the streets around our house only 7 miles away.

7 miles away.

It really hit me hard.  It was so close.  People we knew where there.  They lived there, taught there and worked there.  Was it possible that any of them survived?  And the schools...

When the picture above came up, I honestly thought I was going to throw up.  It was one of the schools.  

T & I and the puppies sat for a long time watching in the basement.  Feeling numb.  A little shocked, which is pretty uncommon for a girl that has grown up in tornado alley.  You always know it can happen.  You always prepare and get to where you need to.  This was different.  This was incredible.  The tornado hit the same spot.  Almost exactly.  The worst tornado in our history hit the very spot where the worst tornado until Joplin hit in 1999.  I just couldn't believe it.  Yet, there it was.

It was also different because in 1999, I didn't go to Moore.  I didn't have any friends there.  I didn't have a favorite place to go eat popcorn and watch movies.  I didn't know the ushers there on a first name basis.  I didn't have an Eye Doctor named Lisa Mayes who was awesome or a friend that worked in a school in Moore.  I didn't know the University Teachers that lived there.  I didn't go hang out on Tuesdays with my best buds and eat wings in that very spot.

I did in 2013.  

This was my theater now.  T & I always refered to it as the Xanadu. 
It ended up living up to the magical title.  Mr. Warren spent millions of dollars fortifying it just in case this happened.  He built it with tornadoes in mind.  He hired experts and didn't cut corners.  He saved lives.  It might have looked messed up, but people that sheltered there said they felt secure and safe.  They were a little shocked at what they saw when they walked out.

7 miles away, it didn't even rain a drop.

7 miles away, you wouldn't have know anything had happened to Moore, if it weren't for technology and communication devices we have today.

7 miles away, everything had changed.

The afternoon and evening were filled with both horrible and happy points of news.

Children had perished in those schools.

Yet amazingly, as far as we know, everyone we know made it.

Our friend that was the Teacher at the other school that was hit didn't get a message to his wife until 9:30 PM that night.  His phone wouldn't get through.  Even our phones and internet were unavailable, 7 miles away.

We were so relieved to hear he was alright.  He stayed with his students until every single one had been picked up by their eager and joyful parents.  EVERY. SINGLE. ONE.

Those teachers in Moore...let me tell you something, there are people that get the label of hero for reasons that I don't agree with, but not these people.  These Moore teachers and faculty and staff are what every human being should strive to be.  

They are underpaid, work in underfunded facilities, are constant targets of the state governments "budget" and "tax" cuts, and they still, STILL, stayed with their students and huddled them underneath their bodies and sheilded them and protected them when they had no idea if they would make it out alive.  While they were being hit with debris as walls came down and winds ripped the buildings around them away, they held fast and told their children that everything would be okay.  

That, my friend, is a HERO.

Not only that, but it is an incredible human being.

I am so proud that those incredible human beings live only 7 miles away.

Other incredible human beings are at work, right now, clearing the debris, searching and researching, and spending exhausting countless hours piecing it all back together.

The next time someone whines about the morality of society crumbling, or the end of the world being near, you tell them they are full of crap.  You know that isn't true.  Why, because you know someone that knows incredible human beings, you know incredible human beings, who put politics and religion and all that BS away and show us what compassionate caring human beings we really are.

They exist.  For real.  And are being incredible right now.  Just 7 miles away.


Sarah said...

Well said. Glad you two are safe.

Turayis said...

That was an incredible post! Made me cry and feel and swell with pride for those who lost, and those who are heroes.