I was in Moore, two weeks after the May 3, 1999 tornadic monster ripped through the Oklahoma City suburb. My brother and sister-in-law lived within walking distance from a line marking the beginning of horrific damage.
Massive tree trunks cracked and split, like toothpicks chawed in the mouth of an old cowboy. Telephone and electric poles, blasted into a domino of leaning sticks, rendered useless after the storm. Scraps of insulation, plastic bags, and other light debris, waved eerily from stripped branches. Silence pulsed its throbbing ache from street to street.
An F-5 twister bore down on its victims with little warning.
Once you pulled out of my in-laws drive, it only took a couple of turns before you entered a war-torn community. The attack on homes — brutal. Piles of broken glass, rubbles of red, gray, and brown bricks, dangling ceiling fan blades, mud splattered toys, decimated appliances, and mounds of splintered boards peppered residential curb sides. Some in front of jagged homes, left half-standing. Other mountains of trash covered the landscape in front of bare, concrete slabs. Beautiful brick homes, smashed in mere moments.
A heavy odor of unrefrigerated fruits and vegetables, soured milk, spoiled eggs, and other undefined smells blended in an unsavory brew scenting the air. The birds still refused to sing, obviously aware that the grieving period had not yet ended.
On the evening of Friday, April 22, 2011, an EF-4 tornado struck closer in my home state of Missouri. I was scheduled to fly out of Lambert Airport on Sunday. Fortunately, my Southwest flight departed from the east terminal, the first to open after the twister plowed through our international hub. I tip-toed past boarded up windows, on my way to check in.
Only a month later, on May 22, 2011, Joplin fared its own massive tornado strike. The sights, sounds, smells, touch, and taste of destruction were all too familiar. It seemed unfair for another round of ambulances, fire trucks, and police cars to weave their way around nature’s mess as they tried to reach injured, and sadly, fatal vicitims. But in the throes of determined efforts, there was no time to dwell on fairness.
And now, May 20, 2013, Tornado Alley slams us with another blow. Another set of after-effects to deal with.
Because of past experience, my own, and those of others closer to tornado damages, I know there’s a sad pattern in place. Long-lasting impact that you can almost predict.
- Grieving is necessary. Not just for the dead, although we are dealing with our own sting of death, as our family sustained a fatal hit. My nephew’s sister was killed in her home by this violent monster. In addition to the heart-wrenching pulse of pain from Jeany’s loss, the people of Moore, will mourn the passing of many other things.
- Their sense of security.
- The comfort of a familiar place to lay their heads, versus a hotel, shelter, or hospital bed.
- Going to the bathroom, in the privacy of their own home.
- Relaxing on the front porch, listening to laughter tinkle from neighborhood children, sniffing the aroma of nearby barbecue, and sipping a glass of tea from a favorite glass.
- Treasured mementos that marked once-in-a-life family moments.
- The ease of preparing a meal in their own kitchen, or driving to a favored restaurant.
- Loss of income for potentially long periods of time.
- The convenience of driving through familiar streets, following familiar routes, arriving at familiar locations. Now nothing looks familiar.
- Going a full week, without attending, crossing paths with, or reliving the memory of a multitude of funeral processions for family and friends.
- A normal day of cleaning, versus the drudgery of sweeping up mounds of glass and wood, trying to avoid shards and splinters.
- The sense of community, replaced by aloneness, when most of the volunteers head home.
- The absence of anxiety and/or depression.
The after-effects of Moore’s tragedy will last far beyond what those of us on the sidelines can imagine. Little things will become huge things. Big things will never go away. When the stuff of everyday life draws the attention of the rest of us to the mundane, they will ache for a return to normal feelings, but it may seem unattainable, just beyond their mental grasp.
So what can we do? Don’t move on and leave them behind. More than pretty words, make the slogan, “We’ll never forget” real. Show it in action and deed. Mark your calendar for three months in the future, and reach out. Six months down the road, make arrangements with an appropriate agency, then show up when most volunteers have went home. Prepare to commemorate with Moore survivors when the first sad anniversary arrives. Make it an annual event. But don’t leave the hurting behind.
None of us knows when we might be on the receiving end of unforeseen disaster. Ask yourself, what would I want others to do for me? Give that gift to those who need it now. If you want to learn more about giving, helping, or following up for the people of Moore, contact CLC, The Christian Learning Center out of Rolla, Missouri. Together, we can bring back the hope that the tornado swept away.
Anita Fresh Faith
Anita Agers-Brooks is a Business and Inspirational Coach, Certified Personality Trainer, Productivity Expert, Certified Training Facilitator, Communications Specialist, national speaker, and author of, First Hired, Last Fired — Biblical Secrets to Make You Irreplaceable on the Job.
She’s a partner in The Zenith Zone, a business coaching firm. Member of the Christian Writer’s Guild, Toastmasters, a client of WordServe Literary Group, and the Simply Sue Speaks booking agency. A graduate of CLASSeminars for Leaders, Speakers, and Authors, a co-founder of The StoryWriting Studio, and speaker on circuit for Stonecroft International Ministries.
Anita’s passionate about business with integrity, healthy relationships, and issues of identity. She travels the country teaching others from her personal experiences and research. She believes it’s never too late for a fresh start with fresh faith. Anita lives in Missouri with her husband Ricky.