Grieving Oklahoma parents don’t want anyone to ever lose a child again because they didn’t have a safe room to go to at school during a tornado.
After the deadliest twister to hit the U.S. in two years tore through Moore, Okla., in May, 24 people, including nine children, perished -- a tragic figure that some think could’ve been drastically lower if schools had had storm shelters in place. Seven of the nine children alone died inside the walls of Plaza Towers Elementary School and mourning parents are now trying to raise enough funds to equip each school in the state with a storm shelter, NBC reports.
But they have a daunting task ahead of them.
The state doesn’t require such shelters, nor does it provide funding for them. Getting storm shelters installed in the more than 1,600 Oklahoma schools that currently are without will cost more than $1 billion, according to the news outlet.
"Our children are not going to die in vain," Stacey McCabe, whose only son, Nicolas, 8, died at Plaza Towers Elementary School, told NBC. "I will not let that happen, and I will not let this happen again to another parent."
To reach their tremendous goal, the group of parents has partnered with the Shelter Oklahoma Schools (SOS), a nonprofit that was established in the immediate aftermath of the May tornado. It’s raised close to $1 million so far, according to the organization’s website.
“The children at Plaza Towers elementary did not have to perish. Nothing we can do will bring them back or console their loved ones who remain, but we can try to stop this from ever happening again,” SOS wrote on its website.
In the past decade, below-ground reinforced shelters have become commonplace in Oklahoma homes and the organization wants schools to build these safe rooms with the same kind of urgency.
The organization has already gotten support from a number of major corporations that have ties to Oklahoma. Apache, an oil and gas company, donated $500,000 and FOX 25, along with a number of local businesses, donated $45,000.
As the parents collaborating with SOS fight to bring their mission to fruition, they say they’re comforted by the fact that their work could protect other children from facing the same tragic fate that claimed their kids' lives.
“If our children had storm shelters then they would be safe,” McCabe told the Edmond Sun, “and we should be able to feel like when we send our kids to school that they are safe.”