A natural disaster in some corner of the world makes a community unrecognizable, and upon hearing the news, we pause and breathe a silent prayer.
We understand. We empathize. We weep. We donate bottled water and write a tearstained check. "How can people make it through that?" we wonder.
In Oklahoma, we know. We know in more than pictures. We know how disaster smells. We know how tears born of smoke and sadness burn. We know psychosis of ignoring gut-wrenching fear as we run toward the monster to save others, rather than fleeing to save ourselves. After all, this is what Americans do. And these traits are at the core of Oklahomans.
Overcoming is in our DNA.
On May 3, 1999, nature dealt Oklahoma a hand it had never dealt before -- the most powerful tornado in history gouged a path through the OKC metro community of Moore. On that day, the wind didn't whisper its words. "OVERCOME THIS!" it screamed.
So, on May 19 and 20, 2013, nature redoubled its efforts, turning half a dozen Oklahoma communities into the surface of the moon, including Moore. Again. Even more storms have hit our state since then, continuing to impact cities and towns across our state.
Oklahomans already know how this chapter will end. We just want to make sure everyone else knows it, too.
Many people and places measure their greatest qualities in 60-minute increments. This will be "our finest hour."
Our people measure resolve in days, months and years.
Many people give, very sincerely and genuinely, out of their surplus.
In Oklahoma, the median income ranks 41st yet, our people form the nation's 11th most generous state. Here, people give out of their need.
In the handful of days since the storms, companies with headquarters and operations in Oklahoma - companies hit directly and indirectly - have donated tens of millions of dollars. The NBA's Oklahoma City Thunder and its players -- they said we couldn't support a professional team -- have already donated $2 million, using personal vehicles to deliver supplies and manpower. Oklahoma-based energy companies have also stepped forward to help, contributing a total of $7 million to relief efforts.
And, in the dark, deafeningly silent hours after the last twister finally lifted, aerial photographs shifted from pictures of fields of nightmares to images reminiscent of the final scene in Field of Dreams, as miles upon miles of cars, headlights blazing, lined up to deliver donations, while others drove toward the devastation, not to stare, but to help dig through the rubble looking for survivors and precious belongings.
When President Obama visited Moore on Sunday, May 26, he spoke words that rang true to all Oklahomans. "We know Moore is going to come back stronger from this tragedy." He and the rest of America know by now that we are no strangers to tragedy, nor the triumph in overcoming it.
Many phrases have been coined to describe Oklahoma and our peoples' response to adversity, including "the Heartland" and "the Oklahoma Standard," but our state doesn't actually have an official state motto.
Most, recalling a novelty item or a license plate they once saw, believe our motto to be something plain, humble and almost embarrassingly simple.
"Oklahoma is OK."
Not even close. For the resiliency of our people and the outpouring of support from our neighbors across the nation prove Oklahoma is so much greater than that.
Thanks to our people, it always has been.
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