Oklahoma Twister

Tonight’s blog post is dedicated to the people of Moore, Oklahoma. I started writing this a few days ago, but my heart was too heavy to see all the good that I knew came out of the sad situation at the time.  I felt a strange bond with the town, even though I don’t have any family there; I think it’s because we are part of the “family” of Midwestern states, the group known for wheat fields, long grasses, friendly neighbors…and, unfortunately, tornadoes.

I definitely wanted to identify the “jelly-side up” aspect of this tragedy. And I think, just like in Boston’s recent tragedy, the good is found in the people.

The beauty of the kindness of people shined through on Monday and is continuing to do so still. I think, for this tornado-riddled region, there is an inherent kinship in the hearts of the residents.

The 2-mile-wide F-5 tornado touched down around 3 p.m. CST Monday in Moore, Oklahoma and traveled 20 miles.
(Photo from Yahoo! News)

For a full news report, I think Yahoo! did a good job of writing one. For live updates, you can see ABC’s feed.

This event was beyond devastating. 24 people and 100 animals were confirmed dead. The destruction is unimaginable, even still.

Yet through it all, the people of Oklahoma have bonded together to protect and help one another.

A schoolteacher carrying a little girl out of the destroyed Briarwood Elementary School.
(Photo from ABC News)

One heartwarming story I heard was of another schoolteacher who covered three children with her body as the tornado ripped through the school. She saved them all.

They helped the animals, too. There are still animal rescue groups out there finding many animals who were missing. ❤
(Photo from the Denver Post blog)

I think people are still in shock from what happened. In Illinois, we were glued to our TVs and computers all day, watching news streaming live and praying for people and animals to be saved. As the weather system swept past us with only rain, we felt a mixture of relief and survivor’s guilt for our Oklahoman neighbors who weren’t as lucky.

But there were miracles that happened that day, and miracles continue to happen even now. In this article, I discovered a new favorite journalist whom I’m now following on Twitter: Andrea Ayres Deets. I really like her perspective, and I appreciate that she published this article (“10 Unbelievable Acts of Kindness Following the Oklahoma Tornado”) right when the nation needed it the next day. USA Today also posted a nice video about stories of hope in Oklahoma following the tornado.

The fact that the official death count was cut almost in half from Monday to Tuesday was a miracle in and of itself. I’ve never heard of that happening before. Another incredible miracle was a story of a baby being born in the middle of the tornado. Doctors and nurses bravely moved a woman in labor into a room with no windows, so she wouldn’t panic, and they delivered the baby as the walls collapsed around her. Both the mom and baby emerged in full health. The baby was named “Brayden Emmanuel,” which means “God is with us.” He certainly was, wasn’t He? If you watch that video (hyperlinked above in this paragraph), directly following it is the viral video of the woman who was being interviewed about her lost dog when he emerged from the rubble behind her.

For some people in Moore, I know life will never be the same. Twenty-four families are still in mourning over their lost family members. However, like the woman in the dog video says, Oklahoma is no stranger to tornadoes and rebuilding after disasters. People from all over the world are coming together to help out the victims; places as far away as Guam set up disaster relief. Also, a requested retweet: @redcrossokc has set up a shelter and reunification site for those affected by the tornado. They are asking for people to retweet the message.

If you’re interested, here’s an excellent listing of How you can help.

A symbol of America’s unity embracing the disaster victims. (Photo from Daily Kos via Oklahoma Sheriff’s Office, @OkCountySheriff

I was inspired by all of this to write a poem. It’s more newsy than my usual ones, but I thought that was suited to how I’ve been interacting with the story. I’ve been following the news coverage closely, evaluating those stories, and forming an emotional connection with the people and animals I’ve been reading about.

By: Amanda Fowler

Not a victory.
Clouds of fate
ripped through
the middle of
the middle of
the country,
buildings and lives

Black clouds
spread across
the whole nation’s sky;
the news reached Chicago
before the weather did.
By the time
the storm reached Chicago,
it just brought rain;
but we didn’t notice,
because our eyes
were full of water

Swirling around,
everyone’s the same,
and people who didn’t know
each other yesterday
climb through debris,
risking their own lives
to save another.
Some who went up
will never come back down,
but there is still hope,
and until the last glimmer
goes out, they will
continue to search.

51 to 24 is a miracle;
27 raised from the dead,
27 more prayers to add
for the 24 who flew
into Heaven.
And in the eye of the storm,
two new eyes open
for the first time:
a child is born,
Brayden Emmanuel;
“God is with us,”
says his name,
and we know it is true.
A ray of sun
is breaking through the clouds.

Oklahoma is rebuilding,
and the memories and love
cemented in the old buildings
will be in these, too,
but also,
the new memories
of saviors, heroes, rescues,
light breaking through clouds,
these, too, will be a part
of the renewed Oklahoma.