05/24/2013 12:46 pm ET Updated Jul 24, 2013

Death in a Gymnasium: The Tragedy in Moore, Oklahoma


Kyle Davis, age 8, died in his school gymnasium when the tornado hit his school on May 20. Kyle was nicknamed "The Wall" because he was a little bigger and stronger than the other children. He and the others who died in Moore, Okla., may have survived if they had been protected by the walls of a below-ground shelter.

This is a time for mourning, not blame. Yet in the wake recent tragedies in Newtown, Boston and now in Moore, we can't help but ask ourselves whether there isn't something we might be able to do to prevent such tragedies in future. At her son's visitation Kyle's mother, Mikki Davis, pleaded for storm cellars, "something where these kids can go and we're not picking through rubble to try and find our kids."

Long before Davis spoke out, experts made it clear that below-ground shelters provide the only adequate protection against the giant tornadoes that form in the plains, shelters in schools are still rare. This is in spite of the fact that Moore had experienced devastating tornadoes in 1999 and 2003. Although no schools had been hit by those tornadoes, six years ago eight students died when a tornado hit in their high school in Enterprise, Alabama. Why didn't the residents of Moore and other Oklahoma communities in "Tornado Alley" make safe rooms mandatory in their schools? Surely the lives that would be saved are well worth the added costs of construction.

If we are willing to build gymnasiums and ball fields for our children to play in, shouldn't we be willing to invest as well in their safety and welfare? We shouldn't stop at building safe rooms in areas like Moore, Okla., or limiting access to guns. We should embrace our unmet responsibilities to assure that all of our children (not just those in our immediate families) have an adequate diet, responsive health care and quality education beginning in pre-school. We cannot wait for the next tragedy to unveil our short-sightedness and lack of resolve to secure a better future for all of our children.