An F5 tornado ripped through the city of Moore, destroying my old neighborhood, and my old elementary school on Monday. Everything was leveled. I had been at the Y, to wait out the tornado with my mom , since I live in an upstairs apartment. I went there to wait out the tornado, not even thinking about the path the tornado was taking. We were cleared to leave about 12 min after the tornado passed us, and I and my mom left so that I could take her home. On the way to my parents house, the reality of what the tornado meant hit me. Trees were uplifted out of the ground and blocking streets; cars were turned over; ambulances, fire trucks, and police cars were racing to who knew where. The sky was a gruel, dark, grey, the kid of sky that scares you and warns you about what it can do. We made It slowly through OKC, and pulled into the back of my old neighborhood, hoping that we could use the old shortcut to get to the other main street my parents currently lived off of.
Words cannot describe what we saw. Houses were gone. There was wood and mud and tree limbs everywhere. Cars were piled on top of each other, on houses, and on the street. People were running everywhere, most heading in the same direction. My mom, knowing that I wouldn't be able to make it through by driving, told me to turn around and she would walk the 3 miles left to her house. I protested, obviously, but she was determined, so I let her go. To no avail, I tried to make my way off the street to turn around and ended up being blocked in a driveway by two cars and an ambulance, all who showed no signs of leaving anytime soon. I got out of my car, grabbed my phone and wallet and made my way through the damage. Turning the corner around what used to be houses, I saw the reason for all the frantic parents and crying kids. The school had been hit. And by hit, what I really mean is, demolished. There were people, firemen, policemen, soldiers, and paramedics everywhere. Kids were crying, moms were screaming and sobbing for their children. I was in shock. I had no idea how huge this tornado had been. I made my way, in my flip flops, over to the wreckage of the school. I found a frantic paramedic, told him I knew CPR and how to use an AED, and he told me to keep watch for anyone who was stable, or unstable and let him know. I talked to a few parents, kids, and teachers, all who were shell-shocked. I helped assess a few victims, talked to a pregnant woman who was buried under the rubble until she was taken to the hospital. The policemen eventually had all non-essential help move away from the rubble, due to a gas leak, and because they were beginning to find bodies instead of living people. I moved out of the way and called my husband. After a dozen tries, I finally got hold of him and began sobbing. The reality of the scene I was in the middle of hit me with a brutal force. I was scared, and alone and so desperately sad for the people around me. My husband and I made a plan to meet up and I began walking to our meeting point. After about 20 minutes, he called to tell me he couldn't get through the street we planned on meeting at, so I had to walk another mile the opposite direction to the gas station. I went to my car, passing several kids I knew from the school and also people I had grown up with at that school, got my purse and began walking.
My husband finally found me, and we walked another mile or so, to his car. I was covered in mud, sore from walking in flip flops and couldn't stop crying. We came home to no water, and packed some bags to go stay at my in laws. I took a shower there, watched the news, drank a huge cup of strong tea, and went to bed, exhausted. I slept for maybe 2 hours that night.
Since Monday, our water has come back on, the internet is working again, I have my car back, and I have slept a lot. But none of that is making me feel better. Because yesterday, I found out that a nine year old boy who I had worked with when I worked at the Y had been killed in the tornado. He was one of the 10 children, all mostly 3rd graders, who had passed in the tornado. They had two more days left in the school year, and then they would have been free for the summer. To swim, as we all know kids love to do, eat lots of junk food, and spend the days with their friends. I know that for Nicholas, he would have spent his days at the YMCA, swimming, going on field trips, inevitably sunburned with way too much sugar in his system, with his friends. But that isn't going to happen for him now. It makes me so desperately sad to know that too. Because I loved my childhood summers. And I love summer at the Y. Trips, summer camps, swimming, the library, friends…those are the makings of a good summer. And that sweet nine year old boy won’t do any of those things anymore.
I know, that eventually, we will all start to feel better about this. Maybe better isn't the best word, but we will all come through this. Lives will return to normal, and people will move on. But today, I don’t care about moving on, or staying strong, or being brave. Today I am sad, sad for Nicholas, and his family; sad for those who lost their homes and pets or relatives; sad for the children who only such a short time, who will never get married, or have kids of their own. Today, I am going to be sad for them. And I’m going to pray because I cannot face this without my Savior.
Please pray for Nicholas’ family, because nothing is worse than losing a child. A house can be rebuilt, a car can be replaced, but a child, a baby, can never be replaced.