I got the call from our coordinator the following Monday morning that I would be going to training with them Tuesday, in Norman, would need to be down there part of the day on Wednesday to set up machines and then all day Thursday for the actual rollout. None of this was a surprise and I was quite looking forward to it. I had an excuse to go home and got to visit with a lot of people, not to mention my mom had retired from this office, so half of the workers there have known me since I was itty bitty. It was like a reunion.
That Tuesday I went to our training center and sat in on training with them. The weathermen had been predicting bad tornadoes to come through central Oklahoma that afternoon. It was bad enough to the point that schools were dismissing school early so as to have the children home with their parents. While at training I received an email that two of my interview room computers were down in the Moore office. My plan was to finish training, take a short lunch and head to Moore to get to the bottom of the problem and figure out how to fix it before being gone for two days.
I had to run a few errands on the way, including stopping at my bank. While at the bank we were discussing the impending storms and I, being a typical Okie, was not terribly concerned about them. Let's be honest, I live in Norman, also known as the promised land and tornadoes just don't hit there, not to mention my house lies in a valley which made it feel quite safe and cozy. (I grew up in a house that sat at the base of the Arbuckle Mountains and storms always lifted to go over the mountain before hitting us, so I came by this nonchalant attitude pretty honestly). I was joking with the bank teller about some friends in college, from Texas, that freaked out about the sirens and ran across the street to the nearest shelter, while the Okie kids stayed put and dry. The only result from the storm was us having a reason to make fun of them and them getting soaking wet from the rain.
I make it to the Moore office and start diagnosing the problems and realize both machines would need to be reformatted (a process that takes roughly 4-5 hours). I may be nonchalant about tornadoes, however the Moore office happens to lie right in the path that two of the worst tornadoes in Oklahoma history have blown through. Needless to say I may be nonchalant, but I am not stupid and did not want to be in Moore if there happened to be a big storm. Call me crazy. I head back to Norman, where I stop by my house and throw things around in my garage in order to cram my car in when I got home from work. While I wasn't worried about it flying away I was concerned about hail damage and did not want to deal with that.
I get back to the Norman office and see a mass exodus happening. The governor had reduced services in all metro offices. I went in and checked in with my assistant county director, just to make sure, and then high tailed it back to my house to cram the car in the garage and let the big dog in (she's not smart enough to go to her house in the rain, so I take pity on her...or that's my story). I proceed to then sit behind my laptop with the news on, not because I was concerned about the weather, but because Mike Morgan FREAKS out at storms and it is really amusing. I was doing a running commentary on facebook with all the little ditties that he was coming up with. My favorites were him talking about the "gitner" (I still don't know what that is, but I WANT one) and this lovely quote "it's a hurricane of a tornado!" I mean, what????
I have never been one to run to a storm shelter or get in the bathtub. Then I heard the worst noise: golf ball sized hail hitting my skylight. I'm pretty sure I thought I was being shot at or something. Then the sirens went off. At this point, for my dogs' safety, I decided that moving to the bathroom might be a decent idea. I didn't really think the house was going to blow away, but knowing my luck of late I wasn't really willing to risk it. The only problem was my phone was almost dead and I didn't want to give up internet access! (Damn me for never going and buying a wireless router) I proceed to move the router and cable to the bedroom across from the hall bath and set up shop in the bathtub, complete with blankets and pillows to make the tub a bit more comfy. I then put the doggie gate up so the monsters would be confined to the hallway away from all windows (because I have a ton).
We made out little bunker and I was back to the play by play, once I found Mike Morgan streaming, and we were hanging out. Here is out little bunker and my bunker-mates:
I had friends in Texas texting and checking on me. My phone was not wanting to play very nice during the storm, so all updates were going out through facebook. Finally the storm appeared to have passed and I got the clear from several friends, but I stayed in my little shelter a little bit longer because it was quite time consuming to get us there, so I was enjoying the coziness while I had it.
I get out of the bunker and head back to the bedroom to see if Glee was on. Well it wasn't, but American Idol was and I made a comment about being glad that Fox wasn't showing constant news. (I was ridiculed for this and my apparent lack of compassion and doing anything. I took full advantage of the "delete" feature on that comment. I have several reason as to why I was glad the news was not on, which we will get to shortly and there will be a whole post about what I do in the community coming soon as well.)
Just before Glee started I was still on facebook (is there a facebook anonymous because I really think I should go) and this post came up from my friend Patrick (best friend Mary's husband):
I have an urgent prayer request please! Some of my family in Piedmont lost their house. They have 3 kids & 1 on the way. They can't find the one of their sons. One of their other kids is in critical condition in Mercy and the mom & the oldest daughter are in the trauma center in Presbyterian. Please pray for the entire family and that they can find the missing son!As I was removing myself from my bunker I had heard about this family on the news, little did I know that they were cousins to Patrick. Basically what happened was this: Catherine, the mom, had done what we were all told to do in a tornado if you don't have a storm shelter: go to the center most bathroom and put everyone in the tub. Thirty minutes earlier that's exactly what I had done! What hadn't happened here that happened to that poor family was a massive tornado ripped their home apart whisking herself and her three children with it and dropping them in different places.
I was beyond shocked. Clearly the first step was to repost it. The more prayers this family could get the better. Mary text messaged me an hour and a half later that the little boy they had found, Cole, had passed away. That certainly was not on the agenda. I figured they would be in the hospital, patch them up, and all would be well. Clearly I did not have the full scope of what had happened.
At that point I was in shock, but continued to repost what Mary and Patrick were posting. I have over a thousand friends on facebook and all of them are amazing people with a lot of serious prayer warriors out there.
I also never imagined they wouldn't find the older boy. That was not in my realm of thinking. If they found mom, daughter and son, surely he wasn't too far away. As the hours passed and they had not located him the reality began to set in. Eventually they stopped allowing the public to search because of the darkness and the dangers that existed due to the damage.
Now let me say, for a moment, why I was glad the news was not on Fox, or any channel for that matter. Sure the weather needed to be on, but at that point most of the severe weather in the central part of the state was over. When the news did come back on they were reporting on this family, with completely inaccurate details. This frustrated me. They were saying it was three little girls, not two boys and a girl, when the family's name was released it was spelled wrong (a minor pet peeve of mine), and overall the on the spot reporting that was happening seemed to be doing as much harm as good. For this reason it would have been just as well if they had never reported on it in the first place.
I went to bed that night praying they would find him, alive.
The next morning I had a ton of facebook comments, likes, and messages regarding the family. People were reposting and the story was spreading like wildfire.
The positive that came from the story being on the news was how our state banded together. People were coming out in droves wanting to know what they could do to help this family. A facebook page was set up for prayers and in just over 24 hours it had nearly 50,000 followers. Of course there was some inaccurate information there too, but the point is how many people were praying for this family and for the safe return of their third child.
A few days before this incident I was watching pregame before the Thunder's playoff game. Yeah I have no idea why on earth I was doing this because I HATE basketball. I mean I abhor it. However the story on the television caught my eye. Apparently when the team moved to OKC the coach (don't ask me his name, I hate basketball) took all the players, and subsequently all new to the team players, to the memorial for the Alfred P. Murrah building. On the anniversary of this terrorist attack I posted a blog, so I won't go into that here, but if you want to check it out feel free to click here and read it.
What the coach wanted the team to understand was who we were. Oklahomans are people who band together when something bad happens. We don't role over and whine and say "why did this happen to us?" No we step up and send money, or show up at the site to look for survivors, or send clothes, make sandwiches or do anything little that we can in order to help each other. When this atrocity happened to our state it hit us hard. We have never been a state to let the bad get to us. When we survived the dust bowl and the depression and got a bad reputation from the book The Grapes of Wrath, did we let that get us down? No! The University of Oklahoma did what it took to construct one of the most outstanding football programs to give Oklahoma a great reputation. When April 19 happened we could have sat back and said "why us" and we could have felt sorry for ourselves, but we didn't, we stepped up and said "how are we going to be better because of this". We don't sit back and let life happen to us; we do what it takes to make life better.
Bad things happen to good people and we ask why. We choose whether to learn and grow from it and to rise above and make the best of it or to sit back and do nothing.
As I have been making arrangements to get some items for Patrick's family I have been in contact with all kinds of people. Each one of them I have thanked and expressed my amazement for how wonderful humanity can still be. Each one of them has said something to the affect of: that's just what Oklahomans do.
I can think back on many bad situations that have occurred in my life where the people around me have stepped up. Some of the situations have happened to me and some of them I have been the one to step up. Each of those moments in my life I have been amazed at the strength of others and the strength of myself.
Though in no way would I ever wish anything like this to happen to anyone, because it did I have been reminded that in the end people really are good at heart and people do want to help each other. There is nothing that can soothe the pain that I know this family is feeling, especially as they lay their babies to rest soon, but I pray that knowing how many people, both that they know and that they have never met, care about them may give them a small amount of comfort.
They will continue to be in my prayers, even after the news stories subside and the facebook page is no longer updated. There will be many days, weeks, months and years of healing, both physically and emotionally, that must take place.
I am proud to say I was born an Okie and I plan to stay one. Even though there have been a few times I have considered leaving here, I never could. The people are just too good. While I hope nothing like this ever has to happen to another family, I know that if it does we will band together once again and help those in need because that's what being an Okie is.