May 20, 2013.
One more date will be forever etched in my mind just like September 11, 2001, February 19, 2002, and April 19, 1995.
It was a Monday and conditions were ripe for severe weather. I felt it in the air. We all did. Yet nothing was on the radar and although the humidity must have been 1,000%, the skies were clear and the sun triumphed through the clouds. The day was nice.
I was trying to decide if I was going to take my 14-year old son to his guitar lesson. The reason for my dilemma was the time frame and the fact that the lesson is 45 minutes away. And while there wasn’t a storm now, there might have been one on my drive home. We live in the far northwest corner of Edmond, Oklahoma, and the lesson is in Midwest City. My husband asked if I was going. I told him I was thinking about it. His reply via text: “I wouldn’t risk it.”
So I heeded his caution, stayed home and watched the news coverage.
There was nothing on radar at 2:00 when we normally leave. Nothing at 2:30 which made me doubt my decision. Clouds were swirling about 30 miles south of me at 2:48. And then this at 2:58.
I literally watched this tornado from start to finish. I watched the clouds start lowering. Then I saw the slender funnel touch ground, pop back up and then finally take up residence on Oklahoma soil. And within a minute, it went from a skinny, thin funnel to the picture you see above. And within four minutes, it was this:
For the rest of the afternoon and evening, I kept my eyes peeled to our local news channels. I went between News 4, News 5 and News 9 and they were outstanding, professional and caring in their coverage. I personally think that the best meteorologists are in Oklahoma City and other areas that are within Tornado Alley.
While watching the coverage, I couldn’t keep the tears at bay. They flowed like the mighty Mississippi for the better part of May 20th.
And May 21st.
And May 22nd.
And even into May 23rd.
I wondered how long I would wear my emotions on my sleeve. Even today, I am still emotional and a bit on the teary side. And I didn’t have anyone or anything taken from me that day.
The tornado was 30 miles south of us. And in tornado terms, that is far away. Not only that, we who reside in Oklahoma know exactly how these tornadoes work. We know the directions they can shift. We know how long we have before we have to quit taking pictures and video and get underground or in our safe rooms. We know to put as many walls between us and the tornado as possible. We know to grab blankets and pillows and take cover. Because my family wasn’t in danger, we stayed glued to the TV.
The meteorologists were calling out street names and I knew that people lived on those streets and were scared as they took cover in shelters or in closets or in bathrooms. I felt that fear for them. So I prayed.
And then the pictures came. Of businesses, houses, and the schools. I could not hold it together if I had tried as I learned of the deaths of the children who didn’t survive. My heart has a huge, gaping hole in it right now as I try to even get a small grasp of what the parents were feeling that day as they learned the news. Or for the parents who searched for hours trying to find their child only to find them…gulp.
I must have hugged my sons on the hour every hour that night and for the days to come. Every time I would see them, I would reach out and pull them into my arms. My youngest didn’t mind but hugging a 14-year old who doesn’t like to be touched isn’t always easy. Nonetheless, he let me embrace his six-foot, thin frame. And as I did, I could not help but sob in gratitude that he was alive and also in guilt that he was alive.
Because another momma’s child wasn’t.
As one of my dear friends says, “Oh my heart.”
The restoration and relief journey will be a long one. But many of the displaced 2,400 families are finding new homes already. It will take an entire nation to help. Thankfully, the churches of the greater OKC area are rallying together and truly being the Body of Christ for those affected. It is a beautiful thing to see.
I will share more next week about the ways you can help the tornado victims.
Thanks for listening to my heart.