Tuesday, May 21, 2013

The Tragedy in Oklahoma

I tried to write this post this morning, but couldn't. I sat and cried so hard I couldn't see the screen. I needed to detach for awhile and gain some composure. Although I knew no one affected by the tornado centered in Moore, Oklahoma, I felt like they were my neighbors and friends - and in a way, they were. We are all bound together by a force that transcends location. We are citizens of the United States and the world.

The photo above started my crying jag - one of several I saw online (click on the link for other photos). It was widely shared - a photo of a woman comforting a dying dog. I had already heard about the horse barns obliterated, with most of the horses killed. I had already seen the CBS video of the elderly woman reunited with her scraggly little darling during an interview. I had already cried as I watched the teacher who threw her body over six children - and the man who commented, "Good job, teach." I have watched hours of the news and scoured the Internet, and with each hour, I've become more emotional over the loss to so many in Oklahoma.

Last night, I suspended tweeting and posting on Facebook. It seemed like the only thing to do. I and others wondered on Twitter how anyone could tweet about makeup when so many were suffering.

I have so many questions. The children? Why was a school built with cinderblocks, rather than solid concrete walls, in tornado country? How could anyone live there without an underground storm shelter - even after FEMA offered to subsidize them after 1999? My questions will probably never be answered, but I still wonder if even one death could have been prevented. Despite being located in a region prone to tornadoes  and being devastated by one in 1999, the city of Moore, according to its Web site and The New York Times, has no ordinance requiring safe rooms in public or private facilities, and the city itself lacked a community storm shelter.

Our Fairfax County Search and Rescue Team was getting ready this morning, in case they were called. I'm always so proud of them when they represent us during disasters. I doubt they will be called to Oklahoma. The authorities have said they have said they are fairly confident they have accounted for most of the area's residents.

I'm even mourning for the trees. I started to write a poem this morning (not my strength), but the thoughts that poured from my brain weren't complete. I may try to finish it later. Trees that might have provided shade for generations of families are dead and dying, their limbs and leaves torn from their trunks in an instant.

Please do what you can to help. The Red Cross, Salvation Army, Humane Society, and other established, reputable charities are on the ground and doing everything they can to help. Most news Web sites have lists of legitimate charities. Money will be needed to shelter those who are now homeless - and will be for a long time. Blood may be too; giving blood is giving the gift of life after tragedies like this one. Please remember the animals when you give. Many are still out there in the rubble of collapsed homes - or wandering the neighborhoods, looking for their families.

Tonight, hold your loved ones near, for you never know what they next day will bring.

Update 5/15: I have now cut off comments to this post. There's always a commenter who wants to tell us and the New York Times that we are all hosed. I have deleted the comment; it wasn't helpful to anyone, and the referenced source provided by the commenter was factually incorrect. FEMA offered years ago to subsidize the expensive cost of storm cellars, and the major of Moore and the governor of Oklahoma have stated on the record that they are working to ensure that all schools have safe rooms. Let's let the facts speak for themselves and continue to support the victims in any way we can - without the insulting snark that pervades the Internet. That's the real point here.

Photo courtesy of avaxnews.net


MoonRae said...

Thank you and God bless you!!! I didn't know until 9:00 last night if my sister & brother-in-law were even alive....They were in the medical center when it hit....let's just say mortality kicked my a$$ yesterday


Charlestongirl said...

Hi Sharon,

I am so glad they are OK. Mortality kicked a lot of people in the butt yesterday.

Moonchime said...

Thank you for summing up how most all of us are feeling today. I also wondered about the lack of adequate shelters in the area that was hit. It seems nobody has ever seen a tornado of this magnitude. It is all heart wrenching and sad.

My in laws live in Tennessee and they were given tornado warnings this morning. It used to be that tornadoes never reached their part of the country.

As if to bring home the stark reality of how close we all live to mortality--our grandson was injured in a freak accident at school yesterday. He was hit upside the head by a flying homemade "duct tape" ball--larger than a baseball. He was hit, felt weird, and fell to the ground. He was unconscious and unresponsive for a full 15 minutes. My son in law arrived at the school within 5 minutes of receiving the call of Ethan's injury. Our son in law had to make the school phone 911 to get an ambulance and paramedics on scene. It was so frightening. Ethan was taken to the hospital, and released. He has a minor concussion and some hearing loss in his left ear. The hearing loss is probably temporary. He needs to allow his brain o rest for about 48 hours. This means no school, no computer games, etc., not easy for a 16 year old. :)

We are all thanking God that our grandson is still with us today. Yet, my heart is saddened at such horrendous loss to so many people who are, as you say, truly our friends and neighbors.

Charlestongirl said...

Oh, Moonchime,

That is so horrible. I hope Ethan doesn't have any lasting effects from the injury. And what of the kid who threw it at him?

slundberg said...

Affected me greatly also. So much heartache for so many and for so much. Much Love,

Charlestongirl said...


Pretty heartwrenching. I'm about to watch all over again. NBC is running a special in just a few minutes. Have Kleenex at the ready.

Moonchime said...

Thank you so much! The boy who threw the makeshift ball was given some kind of reprimand by the school. We are all hoping that there will be no lasting damage to Ethan, as well. At our age,(I'm 57, hubby is 59) we have learned that injuries received when younger have a way of haunting you later in life.

I'm really upset that no teacher was supervising these teenagers at the time. Also, The school really should have phoned 911 immediately. Ethan attends a good school here in Las Vegas, NV. Yet, to me, their reticence at not wanting to involve paramedics, just totally seems reckless.

Thankfully, our son in law arrived at the school before our daughter did. Sam is cool and calm under the most trying conditions, whereas, our daughter is just the opposite. She takes after me, :)

Sam insisted that Ethan not be moved--and he demanded they phone 911 immediately!

Our daughter had already been concerned over the fact that this particular teacher will leave the room and leave Ethan in charge of this group of teenagers. Hopefully, the school is now aware of that situation. This teacher will now have to do her job--or Not. I'm certain she is being asked many questions today as to why she wasn't there when this all happened.

Ironically, when I heard of the heroic teacher's actions in Oklahoma, it just serves as a reminder that there are still good people out there in every station in life. They are willing to risk their own lives to take care of the lives of those around them. That is an uplifting thing to always remember.

Charlestongirl said...


I can't even imagine not calling 911. Inept decision.

Perhaps the teacher should be disciplined and the kid expelled. While teachers shouldn't have to be referees, that is essentially what they have become. Sorry state of affairs.

Eileen said...

As S&R teams are gearing up all across the country, ready to respond when and if the call comes, the rest of us can support the Red Cross, SPCA, and other relief efforts as the citizens of Moore struggle to make sense of how and why they sustained the loss of life that they did. There are so many unanswered questions and I can't help but think that there were people and animals that died needlessly. I am not nieve and I know full well the fury that nature can unleash, but like so many people, I was dumbfounded by the lack of preparedness in a section of the country known for tournedos. I would have thought that 1999 would have been a wakeup call. Yes, global warming is real. Yes, it is playing havoc with our weather systems. Yes, it is creating a more hostile and deadly environment. Yes, as our population skyrockets there is going to be greater loss of life and destruction of property when we experience natural disasters. Yes, yes, yes, and yes, so why aren't we doing more to protect ourselves? Between the horrific destruction and the senselessness of much of the loss, I am left stunned and bewildered. Although supporting relief efforts is definitely the thing everyone should do, all that aide can never make up for even a single life that was lost. We need to assume responsibility for the changes we have made in our environment and that means being prepared for the inevitable natural disasters that are waiting in the wings.

Hi Moonchime,

First, I am so happy for you and your family that Ethan is on the mend and I wish you all my most positive thoughts for his complete recovery. I sincerely hope that the teacher's irresponsibility and the school's ineptitude will both be investigated at the district level and not swept under the carpet.

Claire said...

V. eloquently said, CG. I just cannot and will not read anymore news. Too upsetting for me, especially since 1. I have a small child, and 2. I used to live not far from where the tornado hits. No families there, thankfully friends are ok, but still, it hits closer to home that I can imagine.

Mara said...

I am so sad to hear of yet another tragedy of this dimension in the U.S. and thank you for this post and your attitude towards all the victims in the area and all their loved ones.
I am +8000 miles away from the US but I have had my son studying in your wonderful country and worried so much everytime the hurricane season came.
My heart and prayers are with all the tornado victims, friends and families and with all of you who mourn over this tragedy.

Elizabeth said...

Hi sorry about the website comment above. It was an accident. Anyway, the news today is filled with all the things that happened in Oklahoma. Let us all send our prayers to them. They really need our support and help. I hope they will be able to stand up again and deal with the trauma, especially the kids.

Anonymous said...

Oaklahoma tragedy: What a mix of overwhelming sadness and anger I am feeling. I can't put it into words. I'm outraged seeing the news coverage of people cowering in closets.. CLOSETS! What possible protection can those afford. Where are the shelters? Building codes for schools built on cinder block? I'm glad we have basements here. So many tragedies and lives profoundly affected in such a short period of time. What more impetus is needed to make real change happen?

Moonchime: relieved to hear your grandson will recover, but so incredulous the school did not call 911 immediately given he was unconscious, even for a moment! Once again, I'm speechless at such oversight and definitely feel these are grounds for a full inquiry on their emergency protocols. I would be pressing the school for answers.

Charlestongirl said...

Everyone, there is an answer to some of our questions. Perhaps we weren't the only ones questioning the Moore, OK school preparedness.

Check out this NY Times article: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/05/22/us/shelter-requirements-resisted-in-tornado-alley.html?ref=todayspaper&_r=0

Charlestongirl said...

Hi Mara,

Thank you. I think these tragedies, no matter where, bring out the best from everyone.

I hope your son never has to see a wicked hurricane. They are scary.

Charlestongirl said...

Hi Claire,

Because of all the news coverage, we all now know a small town that we'd never heard of. I'm glad your family and friends are OK.

Charlestongirl said...

Hi Elizabeth,

I deleted the weird link comment. No worries.

Meredith said...

It's hard for me to imagine what this must be like. I've always lived on the west coast. One minute you have your neighborhood, then you look out after the twister has passed and everything is gone. Mind boggling. The picture of the woman with the dog is heartbreaking. I think I'd go insane if I lived around there and had to wander the streets seeing dead animals that were helpless in the storm. How horrible! We humans need to understand that we do not have the power that we wish we did. When something like this happens, you realize how fragile everything is. Be a good person, help, pray for others and remember to help the animals.

Charlestongirl said...

That's sweet, Meredith. The animals have really tugged at my heart. Imagine their worlds so upended. One vet in that area closed his practice and is running the animal rescue shelter. What a champ!