I find it hard to say the word "safe" this week without thinking about the anti-gay hate crimes that have been occurring in our community this year. I have reacted strongly to these acts, but I know that, in this case, I am like the New Yorkers who have never been directly affected by tornadoes.
During Irene I learned so much about what was and was not helpful during a natural disaster. With the recent destruction in Oklahoma, I offer these five suggestions to people of faith who wish to respond.
Gathered in the faculty-in-residence apartment in one of the university's residence halls, a few students, staff and I watched the local TV coverage of the twister as it slowly built momentum and turned from a mild storm to a giant two-mile monster tornado that wreaked havoc leaving a path of destruction in its trail.
Tornadoes do not leave an identity to define our sorrow and struggle around, and closure cannot be as complete. They only leave destruction before pulling back and vanishing into the sky. This ability to turn the lack of closure into a passion to improve is what sets Oklahomans apart.
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I was born and bred in Oklahoma. I make my living as an Oklahoma criminal defense attorney. Tornadoes have been a part of my entire life. Hell, my high school mascot was a "red tornado."
Policymakers hoping to find meaningful offsets to fund disaster aid will have look at: 1) Where there's a lot of money, 2) where the spending is unjustifiable, and 3) where the politics and public opinion are conducive to allowing cuts, since there are very few areas in which that's true.
Her arms hung around my neck, her warm breath on my cheek. And in that darkness, I wept. I wept for the pain the people in Oklahoma felt. I wept happy tears, thankful to have my family close by, and I wept because I knew these quiet moments with my baby asleep on me were numbered.
The important thing to know is that children take their coping cues from us, the trusted adults in their lives. This isn't to say that we should cover our emotions. Not at all. Rather, we need to model healthy coping mechanisms for our children.
Ending oil industry subsidies to pay for clean-up and restitution from a climate catastrophe feels fitting. It will raise the money to satisfy Coburn, and make a point that cannot be overemphasized.
Let us all pray for our fellow Americans suffering in Oklahoma. And let us pray that we are able to differentiate between unavoidable disastrous acts of God and those invented much closer to home that we should have some control over. And let us pray for the children.
Two elementary schools had been hit by the level EF4 storm. Children were dead. Parents who flocked to the school were reportedly kept away from the perimeter so that rescuers could hear any voices that might be crying for help. My first thought as I surveyed the rubble was, Why?
Tornadoes. For me and my fellow Okies, it's probably one of the first words we hear as children. We play "tornado" with our friends. But this. This is something that no amount of experience, no ingrained, Okie-native understanding of the weather or geography can ever prepare you for.
Today went down as terrible, but one strange face in the world became one face I will trust not to plan my destruction. Seven billion people are a lot to get to know. Maybe that's the only way.
One of the things I never really said out loud until recently was how reluctant I was to return to teaching at Joplin East Middle School after the May 22, 2011, tornado.