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."
But as I sat in court this morning, I came to the somber realization that the destruction which ravaged my state yesterday isn't simply restricted to the TV reports or the radio broadcasts. The damage is real, and it affects every single Oklahoman in one way or another.
This morning's criminal docket started with the judge acknowledging the damage and the fact that not all defendants, nor attorneys, would be present today. As the judge called the cases, more than a few of the attorneys' appearances were excused. Some had family members they needed to tend to. Some had lost their offices. Some had lost their entire practice. Many had lost their livelihoods. All of us had lost something.
Often times, whether consciously or unconsciously, attorneys hold themselves out as being "a cut above the rest," as if our education or status somehow separates us from the tragedies and pitfalls that your everyday average-joe has to face. But in a situation like the one currently on our hands, there is no way any Oklahoman, regardless of profession, can escape the fallout of Mother Nature's wrath.
My articles usually concern atrocities that are created at the hands of real-life people, flesh and blood. However, every so often we see destruction by the hands of God Almighty himself. Yesterday was one of those instances. Twenty-four Oklahomans, including an estimated seven children, died as a result of one of the most catastrophic tornadoes in the history of our nation. The silver lining? That death-toll is half of what was estimated yesterday.
Still, that tally doesn't change the feeling of utter helplessness that lingers after the debris clears. To the contrary, every tornado that hits makes you realize that it's never going to change; we live in "tornado alley," and we have to accept that.
Just like individuals on the coast who annually face hurricane season, Oklahomans know the dangers they face, and they face them freely and voluntarily. Just ask the citizens of Moore, Oklahoma who faced a twister of similar scale, in the same town, less than 15 years ago.
In fact, the majority of Oklahomans are all too comfortable with the extreme weather that hits our state a few times each year. I didn't take the warnings as seriously as I should have. Of course we had the local news on, but no one in my office went home, and none of us stopped working completely. It's easy to get caught up in the day-to-day grind, and it's easy to minimize the danger involved in these situations. We figured it was just another tornado.
But as the violent weather swept through the suburb of Moore, Oklahoma, I sat in my cozy office in Oklahoma City and continued my work, anxiously awaiting confirmation from family members who lived in the areas hit the hardest.
Thankfully I heard from my loved ones later on yesterday evening, and they were all alive and in one piece, respectively. Sadly, many of my fellow Oklahomans never got that call. Many of my fellow citizens won't get that piece of mind.
It's hard for me to imagine how I would deal with the loss of everything I love. That's exactly what some Oklahomans are facing right this instance. I'm not merely referencing the loss of a home, or a business, or any other material possession. Some folks have lost so much more. Cities have been decimated. They resemble war-zones, with the combatants nowhere to be found.
But it's times like these though, when our fellow citizens have been beaten and broken down, that the nation gets a full-focus look at the pride and compassion of the people of Oklahoma. Oklahomans are strong, and we will rise together. What nature has destroyed, we will rebuild.
We have the drive, and we have the desire, but not all of us have the means. Our shelters are crowded, and our supplies are limited. If you read this, and you can help out in any way, please do. There's plenty of hard working Oklahomans that would do the same for you.