It’s been one week since the tornado ravaged my town.
It’s been a week of healing and hurting. It’s been a week of frustration and hope. It’s been a week filled with stories of kindhearted, generous people – and sadly, a few of looters and thieves. It’s been a week in which many people have realized they are stronger than they think, and that together, we will overcome.
I’m continually overwhelmed with a sense of gratitude for our safety and protection. Our week had some inconveniences – no power or water (both of which were restored within 60 hours of the storm – incredible), longer commutes because of numerous road closures, a little extra effort in finding groceries and necessities. But I couldn’t bring myself to be frustrated with any of these things – I kept thinking how thankful I was that those were my biggest problems this week. I still had my family. I still had my home. Nothing else mattered.
I altered my route to work this week to keep clear of the roadways that rescue workers needed to use. On Tuesday morning, my first venture out in daylight since the storm, I drove to work, listening to the local news on the radio. About 5 minutes into my trip, I drove through the eastern edge of the debris zone as I listened to the deejay talk about the brutality of the tornado. And I lost it. Mangled cars, debris, and other marks of destruction were all around where I was driving. It was a lot to take in. And my heart just hurts for my neighbors. It just hurts.
Down in Norman, where I work, life was normal. There were no signs of the storm. This town, just 10 miles south, was completely untouched. It amazes me to see the difference in such a short distance. I continued to commute back and forth throughout the week, maintaining some sort of normalcy with my daily schedule.
On Saturday, I needed to run some errands. I had avoided the worst areas throughout the week, because of road closures and the ongoing debris-removal efforts. But now, I was going to be traveling on now-open roads through some of the toughest scenes. I picked up a movie for Ben and I to watch that evening, along with some Gatorade and medicine for my sick husband. I continued on to my next stop, seeing numerous relief stations set up along the road, offering food, shelter, and other necessary supplies. On my way back home, I crossed the debris line. And again, I lost it. I saw firsthand neighborhoods and businesses completely destroyed. As I neared the intersection of SE 4th and Bryant, the gateway out of our neighborhood, I saw where the the tornado had crossed the road, into our city block. It had completely torn apart a playground and park, before going on to destroy blocks of beautiful homes.
I’ve ventured out a couple more times this weekend. Each trip has been difficult. On our drive to the grocery store today, Ben and I couldn’t help but gasp at what we saw. There are no words. Long after the media and news move on to another story, the city of Moore will be struggling and recovering. The enormity of the damage is just incredible. It will take years to clean out and rebuild.
Our town has been filled with “gawkers” – people taking pictures and treating the area as a sightseeing adventure. It infuriates me. And I wish they’d go away. I don’t have pictures to share with you, because I can’t bring myself to take them.
I have been so greatly encouraged by those of you who have contacted me to help with the efforts here in the aftermath. Your generosity and thoughtfulness is humbling. I know to many people, Moore is just a faceless town in tornado-ridden Oklahoma. But to me, it is home. And from the corners of Washington and New York, I have felt your love and support pour out to my town. It means so much to me. And you have my word that I will see that every penny you have sent goes to help the people who have lost so much. Thank you for supporting the efforts to rebuild Moore, Oklahoma.