Our campus is fine, shook up, but fine. The tornado on Sunday in Shawnee was in a neighboring town and effected many people on campus. As the second round of storms broke out on Monday, I closed campus early when it looked like the tornado could be coming this way. Two people in my office have family (kids) that live in the area of Moore that got hit. Their family members are fine, but until today were not being allowed to go in to check on their houses and pets. It has been frustrating that out-of-state media has been allowed into the affected areas, but people who live there have not. As someone who has been through this, I can tell you that the little things that you find in the rubble mean a lot. I am not being critical of the officers doing their jobs, but I feel strongly that the protocols that keep home owners out definitely need to be reviewed.
In May of 2010, my house (about three miles from the SSC campus) took a direct hit from a huge tornado. We were trapped in our cellar until neighbors came and dug us out. Following that, I applied for a FEMA grant in 2011 to build a storm shelter on campus that would be large enough for 6,000 people in Seminole and surrounding areas to take cover. FEMA denied the grant indicating that it was too big of a project.
I froze the screen on my television at one point as a helicopter was showing one neighborhood in Moore. In that neighborhood alone, I counted approximately 200 homes destroyed, and this goes for nearly 20 miles! Most of the people in Moore had time to get to a community storm shelter had there been one in the area. Where such shelters do exist, they save lives.
There is a good deal about FEMA that needs to be fixed in my opinion. They should immediately begin issuing money for community storm shelters in danger zones across the country including tornado alley. Since they denied our request, I have suggested to our congressional representatives that perhaps the money given to FEMA should instead be put into an emergency fund and given directly to the states when disasters occur. The state leaders are in the best position to provide timely responses to help the victims.
This has been a terrifying and horrific few days for many Oklahomans. We would ask everyone to please continue to pray for all of the victims, their families and the emergency personnel who are trying to help. I know the people in Oklahoma join me in thanking everyone for their many kind words and prayers. Even in the face of tragedy, we in Oklahoma have long known that we are truly blessed.
The opinions expressed in this blog post are solely those of the author and do not represent those of his employer or anyone else.