In the aftermath of catastrophe, people in Oklahoma pull together. We do what we can do to help our neighbors. After the floods in 1972 we formed an assembly line outside the Enid hospital to transfer their patient records. During the ice storms of 1998 we sawed our friends' broken tree limbs and stacked the logs at their curb. We've grown up seeing many a tornado. Some never touch down while some leave a path of destruction. As a fourth generation Oklahoman, I grew up being told we came from hardy stock. My great grandparents made the '89 Land Run after all.
1995 brought a new challenge. When the Alfred P. Murrah building in Oklahoma City was destroyed our sense of innocence and security were both destroyed. I was a kindergarten teacher that fateful day. Our school went into lockdown and we sang songs and tried to have a normal day as tearful parents came to pick up their children. Finally, I could go to pick up my own two children. Finally, I could call my husband whose office was a few blocks away from the bombing site. Finally, I could hug my family and be thankful for their safety. We wept in horror at the images we saw on TV. I was also an adjunct for a local university. I went to class that night knowing I would be there to offer comfort. I took a head count and discovered that one of my students and her baby had been in the bombing. She had just accepted a position with the America's Kids Daycare in the Murrah Building. From that day on a teddy bear occupied the chair where Dana usually sat. We all found that we knew someone who lost his or her life that day. We gathered supplies for the first responders: water, sunscreen, gloves, and snacks, whatever we could think of that they might need. We comforted each other and tried to help those who lost family members.
1999 brought the first Moore, Oklahoma tornado. We were told that was a once in a lifetime storm. The possibility of experiencing another one was slim to nonexistent. But, then the May 2013 tornado visited Tornado Alley. I watched in horror as the storm barreled down on the two elementary schools. Having taught in Oklahoma for over twenty years, I knew the safety precautions that would be taken. I had a good idea of the building construction. I knew if the schools took a direct hit, there would be little left to salvage. Most of our schools have no safe room or basement to go to. Tornado drills are practiced twice a school year. Teachers line their students up, take roll and move their class to the safest spot in the building. Usually the safest spots are in the furthest northeast corner of the building since most tornadoes form in the southwest and move northeast. I've been in buildings where the safe spot is in the hallway. Some schools designated moving my students to the opposite end of the building. Once in the safe spot the students "duck and cover." We all know what to do. As a fourth generation Oklahoman, I grew up knowing what to do. I'd practiced the drill since I was a child. I knew the Moore students and their teachers were crouched in the drill position. I knew firsthand the fear my kindergartners experienced during tornado drills. I can only imagine the fear those children felt in Moore. I knew those teachers would do what it takes to guard their children from the dangers of the storm.
After the 2013 Moore tornado, we gathered supplies. We went to the shelters to help. We volunteered for the Red Cross. We gave blood. Oklahoma City University offered student housing for misplaced families. They encouraged staff and faculty members to volunteer in the recovery efforts. The university also provided free tetanus shots for those of us who worked clearing debris. Our orchestra performed during the Oklahoma Strong Memorial Service hosted by Governor Mary Fallin.
We are Oklahomans, where the wind comes sweeping down the plains. We are Oklahomans. We take care of our neighbors.