Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Oklahoma and Flashbacks

Bombarding my eyes and ears and heart with coverage of the Oklahoma tornadoes. What am I thinking? Natural human curiosity gives way to a crying pregnant woman at work. Awesome. 

As I was watching various clips I was inundated with a ton of memories of growing up in Nebraska. First it was the people talking. The accents, if you will, of the Midwest is a little blend of southern and northern. There was a lady talking about the noise and the sound of the tornado and I think, she sounds like family.

Then there was a clip from storm chasers who caught the tornado from the night before in Texas. In the clip you could hear the chirp of the crickets and the cicadas that immediately make me think humidity. And then you see the wind blowing the trees and I and can feel the cool air blow the humidity off your skin but not far away. It still clings to the air around you. Then you hear the tornado sirens. I remember those sirens from my very earliest of memories. I had a flash of AJ, Norma Rae, and me hunkered down in our basement that our dad and uncles built. I remember AJ calling the doctor's office that our mom worked at to see if we should do anything or if she was OK and Norma Rae fretting that AJ shouldn't be on the phone during a storm. I couldn't tell you how old we were. But I can tell you where we stood in the basement and that there were no lights on and I was holding Muffie our family dog.

The visual of the lightening lighting up the sky so that you saw those doomful looking clouds that erased the horizon, well it reminded me of the time a very good friend of mine went on a family vacation to Nebraska. One night while in my home town there were tornado warnings around the county. The clouds where dark and ominous like in the storm chaser's video. She wanted to go for a drive in case there was something to see. I remember thinking this is a bad idea but I didn't want to disappoint her. I didn't want her to be mad so we took my sister's car and drove to the next town over. I think she hoped to see a tornado and I prayed to God we didn't. We are both very lucky that the drive was uneventful.

Then those children who made it out of the Briarwood Elementary and were unscathed and reported to the cameras about what they saw and did. They did what I was told to do when we had tornado drills in elementary school. The elementary school I went to for kindergarten, 1st, and 2nd grade was a two story building. Solidly built with brick and the floors that looked like marble to me as a child and the giant wooden staircases at both ends of the building. The second floor class rooms merged with the first floor class rooms and we lined the halls sitting on our bottoms with our heads tucked between our legs and our arms over our heads. I actually very clearly remember doing this three different times. Once was down the hall that led to the music classroom. Our next door neighbor was the music teacher and I remember thinking Dianne will get me home if this was real. Another time was down the hallway that led past the cafeteria and to the gymnasium. It must have been before lunch because I remember the smells of the kitchen and that my aunt, the PE teacher, was part of the brigade of teachers showing students how to properly tuck their limbs and why they should do this. The third time was on the main hall way and I imagine I was older because I remember goofing around with my friend at the time and being yelled at.

That school has since been knocked down, not by a storm, but by developers. The elementary school was rebuilt up on the hill by the old/new high school. The block that once housed my parents' high school and then our elementary school is now home to a new subdivision.

When I watched the tearful footage of parents reuniting with their children and the teachers yelling for certain grades to come to them....well, I cried. Horribly.  I have friends and a sister who are teachers and I know that if that was them they would be doing the exact same thing. And its not just because they are teachers but because we as humans are good at our core and actually like our fellow man, child and even that lady's dog and his itty-bitty heart. It’s also humbling to think that I know a hero or two.

But I also cried so hard when the woman who was reunited with her son and was told was so very brave. I just cannot imagine.... I mean how absolutely blessed does she feel that her child escaped unharmed. I don't think that a tornado is going to hit Phoenix any time soon, but I still feel the need to wrap The Boy in bubble wrap so that nothing ever happens to him. I want him to stay exactly how he is right this moment. Even though I want him to grow and accomplish things and make his life his own, the risks that surround his daily life...well, this scare the crap out of me. Even if they don't scare him.

I never lived through a tornado. I have had them be close to where we are but never actually touch down around us. I have seen the devastation and how a storm picks and choses its path. Leaving one side of the road destroyed and the other perfectly fine. I pray for the families and workers in Moore, Oklahoma. Recovery is a long path but looks at Greensburg, Kansas or Joplin, Missouri. Recovery is possible. But then again, Moore knows this already.

Interested in helping? NPR has a great list of ways those of us far away can help. I love the Safe and Well link.

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