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May 22, 2013

Lessons Learned? To Never Repeat.....Oklahoma

It may seem, especially during times when we get wrapped in our own lives, it is all we care about. Things like what recently occurred in Oklahoma bring home for me the importance of life to me.
Thinking about all of these Families, who are homeless with not a damned thing to their names. 
Think about it.  Everything they owned - Family pictures, treasured keepsakes, items their children made when they were younger, pictures of Family long past - all gone in the blink of an eye.
Added to this, there are those who lost loved ones.  It never ceases to amaze me, the power of the human soul, the power of healing.  Most of us, when we experience a terribly tragedy or loss, have a place to park our weary bodies, a place to rest our weary minds.  We have a place where we feel the comfort of home, where we can release and let it go.  The people of Moore, Oklahoma have lost even this basic healing necessity.  They have NOTHING. 
I have always been, what my Family calls, a "weather nut."  I am the one on the radar, half the US away, watching, tracking, storms, wind sheer, you name it.  I love the power of Mother Nature.  Love it.  I love the power of a super cell storm.  I love to get right under it, as safely as possible, looking up into the incredible cloud structure, at times getting blown over by RFD's.  I love any kind of storm; I have had an affinity for chasing storms since I was a young girl.  I can literally "feel" it in the air, when the electricity increases, when the pressure drops - I am right there.  My Mom calls me a "human barometer."  She is not far off.  It's a horrible feeling to love something so much, to have a passion for it, yet to hate it at the same time.  This is the case with tornadoes.
Needless to say, as you can imagine, with my love of storms, I was all over this one.  I was watching this storm long before it formed into a massive, power-of-God F5 tornado, knew it was an F5 simply from watching it's development, spawned from a super cell so strong, it was as if it was created in the depths of hell.
This is what, no doubt, the people of Moore, Oklahoma (and the surrounding communities) were thinking, as they saw this monster headed their way.
Imagine this scenario - you live in a community where storms are the norm.  You are even accustomed to a super cell rolling through, dropping golf-ball sized hail, denting everything you own, shooting lighting from the clouds as if the God's were in battle.  So, even though watches and warnings are firing off, in increasing intensity, you keep your awareness about you, but continue on with life.  You have no other choice, as you live where, during the late Spring and Summer months, this is life.  If you shut down, hid inside, every time a watch or warning was issued, you could very well be living inside for months.
Then, you notice this storm, the one creating the watches and warnings, is getting mighty strong.  You have lived here long enough to know what this means; you might very well have to count on something today, something other than a violate storm.  Still, you are ever more aware, but continue with your day - until the sirens start blaring.
The minute you hear the sound, the horns blaring across the plains, you know something bad is on the way.  Your first thoughts?  You want to know if there is something headed your way, so you check the news, or you have already been listing to NOAA on your emergency weather radio. 
Once you find out it is in fact in your area, what are your thoughts then?  What goes through your mind in those split seconds of indecision?  Maybe they could be where are my kids, where are my animals, where is my Family, what is most important?  Where do I go?  Where can I hide?  Where are my neighbors? You might be one of the (fortunate ones) <see below> and have a storm/tornado shelter, so you think fast on who you need to get into it.  You might not be so lucky, instead grabbing your children, running to the bedroom, stripping the mattress off the bed, dragging it into the bathroom, placing your children in the tub, laying down with them, and then dragging the mattress over you and holding on for dear life. 
Look at the amount of steps involved in this!  Look at the sheer panic this person would likely be feeling!  Then, as you lay there, listening to the storm, hearing it's increasing intensity, feeling your ears "pop" as the pressure drops as the storms nears more.  This entire time, you are praying, you are talking to your children, arms wrapped around them, so tight they almost cannot breath.  But, no matter what, you are going to hold on to them with everything in you.  You will not lose them.  They will not be ripped from your arms.  You know the storm is almost upon you now.  There is nothing left to do but hold on and pray.  The noise is so deafening you can no longer hear the voice you know you are speaking to your children.  You keep talking.  You are their Mother, their Father, their Grandparent, and it is your job to keep them secure.  No matter your words, your children are scared for their lives.  They are crying, tears streaming down their little faces, buried under the mattress.  They may be young, but they KNOW this cannot be good.  The noise increases more, so much so it is actually causing pain to hear it.  The pressure drops more, so low that your ears actually rupture from the intensity of it.  
All of this and then - sheer terror.  Everything is out of your control.  There is nothing you can do.  Things are flying over, around, on top, under you.  You have your arms wrapped tightly around your children - you did.  No matter how tight you held on, no matter how much you prayed, they were stripped from your arms.  There is not a damned thing you can do, against everything in you, you want to fight this.  You want to fight this fucking storm and get to your children!  There is naught you can do.  For the storm is in control now.  You are merely along for the ride.  A ride you might not survive.
As quickly as it started, it's over, but to you it seemed like it lasted years.  There is no sound.  It is deathly quiet.  Wait.  I can hear something.  What is it I hear?  The sound of "drip-drip-drip-drip" is the only sound registering in your ears.  You are laying somewhere.  You don't know where and for a minute, you don't know why.  It comes to you!  My God, a tornado, my babies!  The minute you try to move, you are assaulted by pain.  Gut wrenching pain.  You can't move against the pain, it is so severe in it's intensity.  You have to move - against anything, you must find your babies the storm ripped from your arms.  As gingerly, but as quickly, as you are able, you stand, un-burying yourself from a pile of rubble that has landed on you, around you, under you.  Looking around, you see nothing put piles.  Your mind cannot possibly register with what it is seeing - it simply cannot process it.  You look around, searching for your home, looking for anything familiar.  There is nothing.  Everything has been destroyed.  The trees, houses, cars and other objects that you used to familiarize yourself are all gone.  There is nothing left but piles of rubble and splinters of trees. 
Your hearing comes back little by little, and now in the distance you can hear the storm, still eating a pathway across the plains.  Oh God!  Where am I?  Where are my babies?  Searching with your eyes no longer works.  Not only are they filled with grime and grit, so your vision is impaired, but of everything you see, none of it makes sense.  So, you must move.  Move.  Get out of wherever you are, no matter the pain, and move!  
This entire time, you have heard nothing but silence.  As you lay on the ground, on a pile of rubble, wet, cold and dirty, in the dark, alone, alone with the silence.  Now you are starting to hear sounds.  Sounds of a neighborhood coming back to life, sounds of sirens in the distance.  Oh Thank God!  Help is coming!  You try to yell out, so someone can hear you, so someone can find you, but your throat is clogged with dirt and debris.  Not only that, but in the minutes before the storm hit, you were having to yell so loud, so loud so your babies could hear you - your throat is gone, nothing more than a croak comes out.
At least help is on the way.  I have to get out of here and find my babies.  That is the prevalent thought, the only thought, at this point running through your disorientated mind.  Your priority is finding your children - you cannot fail them.  Oh God, please let them be alive.  Please, please, please, please let them be alive.  You pray.  Pray more.  Shivering, laying in the waste of homes, cold, alone, dirty, shocked and hurt - you pray, not for yourself, but for someone else.  
Is this an experience you think anyone in the US should rightfully have?  If this was your Family member, what would you think?  Hundreds, thousands, of Families go through similar tragedies across the United States every year.  This is wrong. We should take care of our own.  We may not be able to control the storms - but we sure as hell should have control over mitigating the damage to human life.  To ignore this further is wrong.  Our climates are changing, like it or not.  Global changes are occurring and with them, more frequent, more severe and more hand-of-God storms will touch down.
Then, there are the <fortunate ones> You might be one of the "fortunate ones" in Oklahoma, and anywhere in tornado alley; you might have a storm cellar.  There are so many who don't.  Why you ask?  Because they cost thousands of dollars, plain and simple - the American life is not worth more than the all-mighty dollar.  I ask myself all the time why, in an area which is tornado-prone, should a house be built WITHOUT a tornado shelter?  As far as I am concerned, this should be a MANDATORY, government building regulation - so the builders cannot weasel their way out of it.  If a house is being built on property deemed "likely to have tornado activity", then there should be no question.  I am tired of money being worth more than life.  If it was you, what would you say?  If you were the one in horrific pain, having lost a child, a loved one, what would you say?
Now, this is not to say tornado shelters will prevent ALL death, but damned!  For real?  Anyone with a brain cell firing in their head can see the loss of life FROM THIS ONE EVENT ALONE THAT COULD HAVE BEEN PREVENTED WITH A STORM SHELTER!
If the government has certain regulations in place for building in flood-proned areas, why do they not do the same for tornado-prone areas?  Some may say this is impossible, since "tornado alley extends from the border of Mexico all the way up to the border of Canada. You can't possibly build storm/tornado shelters in ALL these homes!"  I've thought about this as well; yes, tornado alley does extend all across the United States.  But, here is where we make it a government mandate on where to build storm/tornado shelters - the government, NOAA, NSSL (National Severe Storm Laboratory), and many more have exact dictation on EACH TORNADO that has touched down in the Continental US - no question.  
Here is where the "studies" come in.  As far as I am concerned, and I am by no means a scientist, but if there is an area that is prone to regular or repeated tornadoes, over an F3 on the Fujita scale, then these should be areas where a storm/tornado shelter is mandatory during building.  There should be NO QUESTION of this if the rebuilding is as a result of TORNADO DAMAGE to begin with.  It is crazy to re-build a home, in the exact location where it was destroyed, and not build a storm/tornado shelter on the property.  Does Moore, Oklahoma need to be more evidence of this?  An F4 destroyed Moore, OK on May 3, 1999.  Leveled the entire town.  They rebuilt, only to have another tornado do massive damage in 02'.  Now, here we are, years later and we have complete devastation - but worse.  We have a community demolished with a staggering loss of life to go along with it.  Unacceptable.
I ask you - think about this.  Think about the people.  Think about the suffering.  Think about the loss of life.  And most important....think about that Parent/Grandparent who, after getting up against all odds, searching everything around them, only to have someone else find their child a mile away, carried by the winds.  They will live with the ramifications of this storm for the remainder of their lives - and each and every time they hear another storm, see lightning flash across the sky, hear the rumble of thunder - they will remember the storm that took everything from them.
Please reach out and help the people of Moore, Oklahoma.  Donate to your local Red Cross.  They need anything and everything we can offer.  Do not forget this tragedy.  This is the way, we as humans, tend to think.  When a tragedy occurs, we are there and one-hundred percent engaged (which is beautiful).  The problem is - once this has passed, there WILL be another, as it is only a matter of time.  Preparing now means saving lives later.  
Even if every person in the Continental US had to chip in five dollars, to build the storm/tornado shelters for every person who needs one, would it be worth the five dollars to you?  Would it be worth it to our government?  Would it be worth it to the insurance agencies?  After all, money talks and bullshit walks, right?  More important - it would be worth it to me to save ONE PARENT the loss and forever grief of ONE CHILD, who lived their last minutes in terror.  This is not how we support our fellow Americans.

UPDATE:  Mayor Glen Lewis (Mayor of Moore, Oklahoma) announced he is seeking an ordinance to place storm shelters in the every multi-occupancy home!  Just announced on The Weather Channel.  Good Mayor Lewis!  I support this one hundred percent!!  =)

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