Sunday night I anxiously watched the radar as a tame tornado watch hovered over our area. In Carney and Shawnee, Oklahoma, I saw television coverage of the damage to a mobile home park and the wreckage across a highway. Monday afternoon, it got even more serious. No sooner had I arrived home with my younger daughter in tow than I heard rumors of a severe tornado just outside of Oklahoma City. When I turned on the TV, I was greeted to a tornado warning.
I quickly gathered my daughters and dog, and together we began making our entryway hospitable. I know it sounds strange for an entryway to be one of the safest places in a house, but if you saw the way our home is laid out, you would understand. We placed beanbag chairs and pillows. Kiersten, my older daughter, had just received a new phone, and she was ready to play games galore. My younger daughter collected her most prized possessions, her favorite stuffies. I angled the TV in the living room just enough so that I could see it from the entryway.
After praying, I tried to push the thought of where my husband might be out of my mind. He was still at work, at least to the best of my knowledge.
I checked Twitter and Facebook on my phone and updated people on my whereabouts. Then I took a closer look at Twitter and saw images and horrified tweets about Moore, OK.
I read that it had been flattened. Entire buildings were reduced to rubble.
I got a little spooked, to put it mildly.
I thought about the possibility that this nasty tornado might be heading our way — we were under a tornado warning, after all — and felt sick to my stomach.
Just about then, Eric got home, and I was filled with relief. I told him we were under a tornado warning, and I said, are you sure this is the safest place in the house? He said he thought the only safer place might be our coat closet.
I decided it would probably be a good idea to go ahead and empty the coat closet and load us all in there. Safer is good, right? Out came the shoes and the rollerblades and the vacuum cleaner. In went the beanbag chairs, pillows, blankets, stuffies, children, and dog. I hunkered down with the girlios, and Eric went into and out of the kitchen to gather food for anyone who felt hungry.
Meanwhile I kept one eye on the radar (I could just barely see the TV from the open door in the coat closet) and one eye on my social media. Before too long I discovered the vast amount of well wishes and “be safe!”s sent by my friends online. I became very teary.
Eric insisted on staying out in the entryway while the rest of us were in the coat closet. Elena asked her daddy when he was going to come into the closet with us. He answered, “When I need to be. And if that happens, I’ll be on top of you.” That didn’t make sense to me until I realized what he was saying — he would be acting as our human shield.
I became even more teary.
Finally, after a half hour or so, it looked to Eric and me that this tornado system might miss us after all. It appeared that one round was going east of us, and the other west of us. But then our tornado warning was extended another half hour, and I wondered if the National Weather Service in Tulsa knew something we didn’t.
I read on Twitter about not one but two elementary schools being flattened by the tornado. That got to me, badly. No parent wants that to happen to their children. No human being can think of children being affected by natural disasters without an aching heart.
I saw photos of Moore, Oklahoma. I saw nothing but rubble. This had been a town. A full town with schools and a hospital and workplaces. Now, there was nothing.
Our trauma was soon over, and we could escape the coat closet and get back to life. But for these people, their trauma was just beginning.
So why have I titled this post “Life is beautiful”? Well, because it is. Here’s what I saw since discovering the devastation.
A teacher hugging a child who was recovered from the rubble: https://twitter.com/MicahGrimes/status/336649419757862913/photo/1
A woman carrying a child through the debris: https://twitter.com/todayshow/status/336622392858255360/photo/1
Parents reunited with their children: http://cdn.newsok.biz/gallery/6028703/pictures/2095159 http://cdn.newsok.biz/gallery/6028703/pictures/2095158
A child rescued from the rubble: https://twitter.com/WilliamsJon/status/336624100430737408/photo/1
And best of all, this video of a woman whose home was destroyed by the tornado, who finds her dog while she is being interviewed on TV:
My friends, life can be messy, ugly, and painful. But life is always beautiful, and life will always find a way.
I thought about trying to rush an afghan and put together a raffle to try to raise money to help the people of Carney, Shawnee, and Moore, Oklahoma. But I decided that we don’t need a raffle. We just need to give.
These people have lost everything. As I sit here in my kitchen and reflect on what we narrowly missed yesterday, I am filled with gratitude as to what I have and heartache for what they have lost. Some lost loved ones. Many were injured. Many more lost everything but their lives.
There are many wonderful organizations that are working to help my neighbors get the treatment and support they need to get back on their feet. Please give to one or more of them.
The American Red Cross: you can visit www.redcross.org and donate as much as you can, or you can simply text REDCROSS to 90999 and automatically donate $10.
Convoy of Hope: Read about their work and make a donation here: http://blog.convoyofhope.org/features/disaster-response/oklahoma_tornado_response/
Salvation Army: you can text STORM to 80888 and automatically donate $10. You can read about their relief efforts here: http://blog.salvationarmyusa.org/2013/05/21/salvation-army-responding-to-deadly-tornado-in-moore-ok/
Operation BBQ Relief: People need to eat during natural disasters. When your home is wiped out and you have no money, what then? This organization feeds victims of natural disasters. You can read about their mission and donate here: http://www.operationbbqrelief.org/
Oklahoma Regional Food Bank: You can donate at their website here http://www.regionalfoodbank.org/ or text FOOD to 32333 to submit an automatic $10 donation.
I’m asking my wonderful readers to donate. However much you can. Please don’t think your donation is too small. One dollar toward relief efforts may not seem like much, but when that dollar is joined with other dollars, amazing things can happen: people are rescued, restored, supported, and relieved of their heavy burdens.
So please give. Because life is beautiful, and we’re all in this together.
* Apologies to Roberto Benigni, but I couldn’t resist borrowing the name of his Oscar-winning film for this post.