Moore Oklahoma Tornado May 20, 2013

May 22, 2013Katie

Most of you know I live in Oklahoma, about 20 minutes north of where the deadly and ferocious Moore tornado struck on May 20, 2013 this week. After watching the destruction on TV for 2 days, I feel the need to write, to express what it’s like here. Here is what it’s like to live a day in the life of the tornado belt of the U.S.

Here in Oklahoma, you wake up the day of a tornado just like any other day.  You don’t appreciate the house you live, or the roof over your head..or at least not the way you do that night when you lay your head down on your pillow.

You don’t look at your kids or your husband with gratefulness and thankfulness either the way you will that night when you hug and kiss them and turn out the lights.

Monday morning I pulled on my bathrobe and stumbled to the back door to let our two little Maltese dogs out and remember thinking, “Sunshine!”

The ominous news had been broadcast now for a week about how the perfect storm could be brewing around us by our spot-on meteorologists, and it was hard to believe while looking at the bright sun shining down.

I sent a quick text message to my (now) 22 year-old daughter Kayla, “Happy Birthday!” She had spent the weekend in Tulsa at Oral Roberts University, where she recently graduated, to see two different couples get married.  She decided to stay for lunch so her friends up there could take her out to celebrate her birthday.

I can’t tell you how much I dislike the fact that the joy of my daughter’s birthday each year will be shared with an equally horrifying memory.

I kind of lost track of the weather threat as I headed off to work and threw myself into a busy time for us there.  Somewhere before 2 pm., all of our phones started buzzing to alert us to a tornado watch for our area.  When you live in Oklahoma, you install as many weather apps that will alert you to danger as you can.  Especially those that will wake you from a dead sleep.

The louder, the better.

Shortly thereafter, the tornado siren located at the church across the road from my workplace started blaring.

Curious, we turned on our local news station and began to watch online. Around 3:00 p.m., one of the clouds began  spinning near Newcastle (a bit southwest of Moore) near Moore. Our local weatherman on KFOR began hollering that the Newcastle Casino was directly in the path it might take and for them to take cover.

I remember thinking that would be horrible, as there might be a good number of people in a casino, although I’ve not been to it and had no idea how big it was.

I had no idea what was to come.

Now, keep in mind, as Oklahomans, we are used to this sort of thing.

Every April and May, we face this.  The sirens go off and we head outside and safe proof anything that isn’t tied down, pulling in our patio tables and plants, covering our newly planted gardens with tarps.  We also drive our cars that won’t fit into our garages to car washes, covered gas stations or anywhere that is hail-proof.

We never think about the fact that an interior room won’t protect us, or that a mattress pulled over us in the bathroom won’t be adequate. I’d compare it to the boy who cried wolf. We’re so conditioned to these things, that we just hunker down and believe for the best. And malls and schools?  Those never entered my mind as destructible.

My, how things have changed.

A mere ten minutes later, Briarwood Elementary School lost its roof and walls while teachers and students tried their best to take cover while cars were flung into the school walls and debris flew. Miraculously, no one was killed.

Then the evil twister heads northwest into neighborhoods, leveling homes, 7-11’s, buildings and destroying anything in its path.

As I heard them mention the Warren Theater, I quickly brought up Google Maps to look where it was in proximity to my Mom and Sister-in-Laws homes. “Wayyyy too close” I thought and frantically started texting them, praying that they’d made it to cover. Phone service was sketchy, partly due to the storm and partly because there were thousands like me trying to call out.

We watch the immense and raging tornado go over a school, one I’ve never heard of, but who I later learn is Plaza Towers Elementary. I also find out later that the lady who works in Graphic Arts, across the hall from me lives in the neighborhood directly behind the Warren Theater. Her grandchild attended one of the elementary schools nearby and her son had gone to pick her up.  She couldn’t get him to answer his phone and didn’t know if they’d been hit.  We found out today her house was spared, but she has no electricity and they are camping out at their house to protect their belongings after purchasing a generator for $800. All her loved ones are safe.

I’ll spare you the rest of the horror you’ve probably witnessed on TV throughout the week that came as a result of the two mile twister that surely came straight from hell to our state.  We’ve all seen enough of that here and it drains and saddens our hearts a little more each day.

But a midst the despair shines a beam of light even brighter than the sun that shone the morning of the 20th. It’s the spirit of hope, the promise of volunteers and the offering from hearts all over the globe.

My daughter manned the news desk at KFOR Monday and people called from all over the world. They are showing up and even backing up highways to bring water, clothing, food, diapers and anything else needed. Children are bringing their piggy bank savings and our local Thunder players (God bless you Kevin Durant) and oil companies  are donating million dollar offerings.

Battered American flags are being hung from twisted and uprooted tree limbs on the wreckage site as news reporters take a moment to weep on-air while reporting the carnage.

Oklahoman spirit is shining through the darkest moments and it brings us community and hope and warmth.

I’ve seen it before in May of 1999, (sadly again in Moore) as another deadly twister raged through the city.  I witnessed it again April of 1995 when the Alfred P. Murrah building was bombed in downtown Oklahoma City.

Oklahomans are strong, proud resilient folk.

We are not the type to give in to disaster but valiantly rally together to support in any way that we can.

*Our teachers are heroes this week because we see the sacrifices they’ll make to protect their students.

*Our news crews work around the clock to show us the courage being given by countless volunteers and displaced home owners .

*Our first responders are rock stars the way they are going through and searching not one, but three times through every car and broken structure.

*There are churches sending people to counsel and pray over the site and with the shell shocked folks witnessing the loss of everything they’ve known.

*There are unknowns who use what they have, from Jeeps to backhoes to just helping to cook meals that have chipped in.

The love we feel here is immense and comforting and lifts us up.

Tonight, before you turn out the lights in YOUR home, say a little prayer of thanks for the roof over your head.  Hug your family and kiss your spouse and let them know just how much you love them.

We in Oklahoma would really love that.

A lot.

(If you’d like to help the relief effort, my friend Stephanie has a great post on what you can do…read it here and thank you!)

Want to speak to Oklahoma? Leave a comment below and I’ll pass it on on Twitter and Facebook! 


  • Sonia

    May 22, 2013 at 10:55 am

    Well glad that Cheryl and your Mother-in-law are all fine. So many of our friends live in that area! Sonia
  • Deanna Kamp

    May 22, 2013 at 1:15 pm

    Just wanted you to know that Bill Kamp's Meat Market is wanting to help feed the volunteers and victims so pass it along if you have any contacts of organizations, etc.
  • Melia Sablan

    May 22, 2013 at 8:11 pm

    I live in Guam island and would like to offer my home as an alternate place to stay (free room & board, 6 -12 mons) until your home rebuilds or till you can get back on your feet & ready to go home. Will consider a married couple or a single mother with 1-2 children, if you're willing to fly yourself to our Pacific island. Please write for details. Prayers are sent your way for strength, peace & comfort as your town & lives are restored in the days ahead. Blessings & love,
    1. DishinandDishes

      May 22, 2013 at 8:23 pm

      Melisa Sanlan... You are so sweet. Thank you for the offer.
  • Nancy Jackson

    May 22, 2013 at 10:21 pm

    Very good post!!

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