Yesterday was a day that none of us will soon forget as the town of Moore, OK was devastated by yet it's fourth tornado in 15 years. This tornado hit right as school was getting out and it's path wiped out two schools (both elementary) as well as a hospital and many neighborhoods, businesses and a horse ranch. With the latest technology and 20 some local and cable news stations......we all watched the loop of the tornado baring down on Moore and eventually hitting it head on. In the aftermath....we watched as people wandered aimlessly.....stunned and shocked, looking for any sign of what used to be their neighborhood, their home....their life. First responders were on the scene as soon as traffic and weather would allow and worked professionally and swiftly in a search and rescue effort to remove as many children as possible from the schools. Blessedly.....one school had all of their children and staff out and safe (at least that is what I last heard). The other school however had removed the 4th-6th graders but the pre-K -3rd grade were unaccounted for. A few began to be brought out, some on their own two feet and others.....well.....it didn't look good. My heart broke as the news announced that it was no longer a search and rescue mission and that it was now a search and recover mission at the school. The numbers began coming in....3 kids lost, then 24 and when I quit listening as the number was up to 30. I have yet to listen today. I just can't bring myself to hear the final count. This was only the kids. I know the numbers of men, women and children that were in other places in town will also grow as homes and businesses were literally ripped off their foundations. If people weren't underground when this hit.......
In the days and weeks that come there will be so many unanswered questions and what if's where this storm is concerned. The schools decided to hold the kids for their safety....instead of letting them out when they heard the storm was headed their way. Parents could of course come pick up their kids but many parents worked..... some in OKC, so there simply wasn't time. I am sure in the days and weeks to come, the school administration will ponder the what if's and parents will grapple with the what if's but in the end....the what if's wont matter because the reality is......this storm was no match for any of them. This storm was destructive and deadly and the nightmare that both schools and parents pray will never happen.....did happen.
More though than the what if's are the why's. Why did Moore get hit yet again? Why has it been hit 4 times in 15 years and two of those times causing mass destruction? Why did it hit right as kids were getting out of school? It is almost certain that if this had hit later in the evening....say 6 or 7 p.m. that the body count might have been much lower. Why with all of our technology were the people of Moore not given more time? The list of why's just goes on an on and sadly....most of those questions will never be answered.
I guess though there is the other side of all of this. The side that those involved in this storm will be holding onto with all their might. There is the side that Oklahoman's are a tough and resilient people. I have known an Oklahoman or two and I know that although like the rest of the world watching....they will feel the devastation and loss, they won't waste time on self-pity. They will mourn their loss, help their neighbors and begin the clean up...and the rebuild. They will fight back, they won't lose their faith and they will go on. Yesterday the governor of OK made the statement that these people still had pioneer stock in them. This is so true. They are fighters and although this storm may test their spirit....it will definitely not destroy it.
To all those who have been affected by this storm, lost their homes and/or their loved ones....my heart breaks for you and my thoughts and prayers are with you. For those first responders.....I thank you. Gratitude is not nearly enough for I know that just a little to the west or a little to the east.....I too might be frantically looking for loved ones and praying for the best all the while fearing the worst.
I know that if you live within a 300 mile radius of Moore that there is an overwhelming urge to jump in your car and go help, but after experiencing a couple of tornado's myself.....this isn't as helpful as you might think. What we can do is use technology to its fullest. If you see on facebook or twitter post where someone is looking for someone involved in the tornado, pass it on. If you see someone trying to send a message to family members....pass it on. You never know who might see these posts and with your help, they just might get to where they need to be. Also....check with the Red Cross, they can tell you in the days to come where you can send money and supplies for those who lost everything and they can also tell you when they will need people to jump in their cars and come help. For now though....there will be days ahead of search and recovery and the fewer people there to crowd the area....the better.
Yes....I know there is purpose and from great sadness comes great strength. May God bless the people of Moore, OK.
UPDATE: I just heard that the death count has been lowered from 51 to 24!!!!! Of course these numbers can change....but there is definitely a blessing in this!