05/24/2013 11:59 am ET Updated Jul 24, 2013

Unthinkable Tragedy Brings Unprecedented Response

What does a native Okie do when driving home from work early to beat severe weather? Tune in to the radio, think about protecting your family and listen to some of the world's best-trained meteorologists track developing storms.

So goes May 20, 2013. However, the approaching storm would bring no typical tornado. May 3, 1999, has been remembered as a once-in-a-lifetime tragic event by Oklahomans. Anything surpassing it was unthinkable. Until now.

Not only was the size unthinkable, but so was the loss. In some ways, it miraculously took fewer lives than anyone reasonably would expect. But in the most important way, it took 24 too many. And, at Plaza Towers Elementary, especially, it took seven far too soon.

As a native Oklahoman, I have watched dozens upon dozens of live tornado reports. I considered myself narcotized to media coverage of disaster damage. Not the case Monday. Veteran and Emmy-winning journalists broke down on camera as they reported the horror from Moore.

It was as bad as it gets. The places we consider safe suddenly looked like a war zone. Teachers used their own bodies to shield students, keeping them safe from falling debris as an entire school collapsed upon them. Thank God for these selfless guardians of our children.

Immediately following the storm, help pours in from across the state, the country and the world. Only with well-trained volunteers and well-organized local efforts does aid achieve such a massive reach. Back at my work at Oklahoma City University, I work with an amazing team of colleagues to organize a response effort for the members of our campus community who were affected, as well as for all victims of the storm.

For every need, an Oklahoman is willing to step up and help. For every person who lost their home, a bed will be available. For every heartache, there is a prayer. Perhaps the only match for what could be the world's most destructive tornado is the world's most heartfelt response. In that case, Oklahoma has it covered. That's why this place is unique. That's why Moore will rebuild. That's why Oklahoma is the heartland of this nation.