I remember hearing my first tornado siren. It was a sunny Saturday morning, I was a bit confused and alarmed, until a friend who grew up hear reassured me it was only a weekly test. During my first storm season I was notably anxious. Over the years, I've grown a bit less panicky (I don't jump at EVERY thunderstorm anymore, I realize the sirens go off for the entire county when a funnel is spotted, etc). Nonetheless, when sever weather coverage is happening, I worry for my friends in the high risk areas and fret until the storm has passed and I can reach them. People speak about past devastating storms with reverence to their destruction. Everyone knows about the May 3rd tornadoes, and if you're new hear, they'll fill you in.
Yesterday I got a phone call from a friend who checks in occasionally (but not frequently) with me in the afternoon during a typical, not super scary, thunderstorm. Her greeting after I said "Hello" was "Thank God you're alive!" Well, it wasn't scary at MY home. I turned on the TV and couldn't believe my eyes. If my best friend wasn't in Arizona, I would have been hysterical. Moore, Oklahoma, a suburb just south of Oklahoma City and hometown to a few friends of mine, was hit. Hard. Right by the exit to go to her house. At the movie theater I'd made plans to go to this weekend. At another friend's house. All over the town. I made phone calls and sent texts, trying to make sure those I know who live there were ok. Some calls wouldn't go through. My mother couldn't even reach me, and I didn't know it until I had received text messages from friends in Hawaii and Georgia and decided I should probably post a status on Facebook letting everyone know I was safe.
My home had made national, even international news.
For the past 24 hours it's been both gut wrenching to watch television and hard to look away. Seeing areas I've driven by often, usually on the way to see people I love, to escape from a long week and enjoy a movie or anime or just good company, were leveled. It's been absolutely heartbreaking.
Oklahoma has a sense of community that is unshakable though. So many people were checking on each other and asking about friends and family as well, people they are not close to or know personally, but that they know mean a great deal to someone they are close to. In the aftermath of an E5 tornado that was two miles wide and literally scattered debris across the state, over 3,000 people have applied to volunteer with Red Cross, maxing out their volunteer capacity. A news station has collected over $65,000 in cash donations in 24 hours. Multiple corporations have donated $1 million dollars, EACH. Kevin Durant, the face of our NBA team, has pledged $1 million dollars from his charitable organization. Every Oklahoman is pitching in however they can. Restaurants and food trucks are cooking and donating food to relief workers. Local businesses are collecting donations. Artists are planning benefit performances and workshops. People are giving their time, talents, and treasure to help their neighbor. Humans are being cared for, animals are being cared for. Homes are being opened, dormitories are made available, rental properties are being donated for free use. Whatever resources we have, they are made available to those who are affected across the state. Moore isn't the only town that has experienced loss. It is a focal point because of the massive devastation, but we are reminded of Shawnee and Carney are in need as well.
I'm thankful that those I know and am close to are safe. They may have experienced damage to vehicles, or even to their house, but those material things aren't what really matters. We will come together, replace, and rebuild.
God bless Oklahoma.