One year ago today, on May 20, 2013, the state I live in and love was hit once more by horrific, violent tornadoes. Having lived in Oklahoma for most of my life, I am very used to storms, tornado watches and warnings and have had to take shelter from them more times than I can count over the years. They are just a part of living here. We’ve learned when not to worry too much and we’ve learned when to take heed and advanced precautions, especially when our meteorologists start warning us days in advance. Last year, our local meteorologists were warning us for days that there was a very strong likelihood of powerful thunderstorms, hail, winds, and tornadoes. So we knew to keep a close eye on the skies and to check the news often that day. We thought we were prepared. And yes, we were prepared to take shelter and had our shelter stocked and ready for us. What I wasn’t prepared for was for May 20th to be one of the scariest days of my life.
Where I live, just north of Oklahoma City, storms hit around 2:3o-ish. I texted my son, who had just graduated high school two days before. He was just getting out of class (they had to go back for a week after graduation) and I knew he planned to return his graduation gear after school. I asked him to please skip doing that and just come straight home. The weather was changing fast and I wanted him to be home as fast as possible. By the time he arrived, the storm was a torrential downpour. I was watching the news to make sure we didn’t need to get in our shelter. Thankfully, we did not need to and I breathed a sigh of relief for the moment. But then a tornado quickly formed west of Moore, OK, and was growing rapidly and becoming a destructive, massive, almost living and breathing monster. I watched the reports as it made its way towards my aunt and uncle and prayed for their safety. When one of news stations showed the map with the streets, I realized that the tornado might go just south of them and they might get some damage to their home from wind, hail, and possible debris, but they should be safe from taking a direct hit. Then the tornado turned slightly and I screamed as I realized where it was headed next.
The tornado was going straight towards the home of my youngest sister, Stephanie, and her husband. I did not know if they were home from work yet, but they usually were around that time, since both worked early shifts. My sister was 8 months pregnant with her first child, my precious little niece, Aubrey. I texted Stephanie, frantically trying to find out if she and Jack were home and wanting assurance that they were taking shelter from the storm. By this time, the tornado had grown in size and power and was tearing up and leveling everything in its path. Knowing their home did not have a tornado shelter, I was falling apart with fear for the safety of my sister, brother-in-law and their unborn baby. I’m the type of person who usually stays level-headed and cool, calm and collected during a lot of crises, and especially when it comes to bad weather, because I always wanted to keep my kids calm and not add to their fear and anxiety. My poor son had never seen me so torn up and scared over anything before. He was trying to reassure me but I was a wreck. Alternately praying, sobbing, texting, screaming at the TV, as if the tornado could hear me and would obey, I was absolutely falling apart. Finally, a text came through from my little sister. They were underground was all it said. I loudly thanked God for getting them underground. I didn’t know whose shelter they were in but I thanked God for those people who let them into their shelter. We watched in horror as the tornado hit their neighborhood and wept with the realization of the schools in the path and those poor kids who were still at school.
It seemed like an eternity before I received another text from my sister stating they were alive but they feared they lost everything. Turns out they were in the shelter at a friend’s house a couple of streets over from their house. When they came out of the shelter, nearly everything around them was leveled. Their friend’s home was gone, as were most of the homes all around them. It wasn’t until much later we learned that my sister’s house was still standing but heavily damaged. If they had tried to stay inside it when the storm hit, I fear to think of what would have happened to them. I will forever be grateful to their friends who saved their lives by letting them into their shelter! It has been one year but I remember it like it was yesterday. My sister has spoken of how terrifying it was to go through it firsthand and I can only imagine. It was awful enough just watching it on TV and being in fear for her and her family’s safety.
So many lives were lost that day. Many others were injured, and still even more lost homes and property. Although much has been done to clean and repair and rebuild, much more is still needed and it will take many years. Nothing can restore the lives lost and my prayers are with those who lost loved ones that day. Especially the parents of the children lost at Plaza Towers Elementary, which stands only a short walk away from my sister’s house and is visible from her front yard. I can only imagine the horror those parents and teachers faced that day, not knowing if their children made it through or not and finding out some did not make it out alive. The same scenario played out in many area day care centers and homes but fortunately, most children were saved by selfless teachers and childcare providers who did everything they could to protect them.
Here is one such example of the bravery displayed by teachers and childcare providers across Moore on May 20, 2013:
As part of the rebuilding and restoration efforts in Moore, Save the Children is working to protect even more children from future natural disasters. They are also marking this one year anniversary by encouraging everyone to be prepared for emergencies and natural disasters. I urge you to do whatever you can to prepare your home and family because you never know when something could happen to threaten either. Save the Children has excellent resources and information, including checklists to help you prepare.
In addition to preparing your family, please check out the following links and find out what you can do to help Save the Children reach and help more people:
- Share the video to raise awareness on the importance of child care recovery: https://www.youtube.com/watch?list=PL5r9JTlp4xXWrienVxWBopkcBaMuvGe9q&v=rpLj-gGKxco
- Complete the disaster checklists to protect children before disaster strikes: www.savethechildren.org/checklists
- Take the pledge to protect children from disaster: http://www.savethechildren.org/c.8rKLIXMGIpI4E/b.6217027/k.5398/Advocate_for_Children/siteapps/advocacy/ActionItem.aspx?c=8rKLIXMGIpI4E&b=6217027&aid=520816
- Donate to Save the Children’s current tornado response in Mississippi. www.savethechildren.org/tornado
- Share the champions for children stories to inspire people to be champions for children too (slide show or storify page)
Save the Children also just announced that Lassie, everyone’s favorite celebrity dog, is their newest ambassador!
Looking back on that day, I am so grateful my family members were safe but still very heartbroken over all who were lost. It is still hard to go to Moore and see firsthand how things have changed. We are in the midst of storm season again and my prayer is for everyone to stay safe and I hope everyone will plan in advance and take the best precautions they can, just in case.
Disclosure: I was asked to share this post by Mom Bloggers for Social Good to spread awareness of the resources Save the Children offers and the need to prepare for natural disasters and emergencies. No compensation was received and all opinions and thoughts are my own. For the love of your family, PREPARE!
Get the latest updates from MomRN!
Subscribe to get our latest content by email.