After watching much of the news coverage yesterday, I felt like the national news did a fairly good job at showing who we really are…
They told of our strength.
They told of our resilience.
They told how we love our neighbors.
They showed our spirit.
They showed our faith.
But the one thing that bothered me was how over and over again I heard news people ask “Why didn’t they send all the children home?” “Why were there no storm shelters in the schools?” And I felt the need to respond.
Even if there had been time to get the children out of the school, would these news people have preferred that all those buses be on the road when the tornado hit? It takes roughly an hour to drive a school bus route. School administrators can’t just blink and teleport your kids safely home to you. And we have all been taught that less substantial structures should be abandoned for more substantial ones. You don’t get much more substantial than a school. Should they have sent kids away from the relative safety of the school to the unknown shelter of their homes?
As to the storm shelter question. These news people and the rest of the world need to understand that the May 3, 1999 tornado and the May 20, 2013 tornado were each so very unique. They were unique in that we have never before seen tornadoes that strong or that huge. They were unique in that the majority of tornadoes do not hit densely populated areas, and for these to land in nearly exactly the same spot is absolutely unheard of. We are used to seeing tornadoes that damage a few homes, not flatten them. A really bad tornado might kill one or two people, not 40+. I don’t think that after 1999, anyone ever envisioned a storm like that happening again. I think we all believed it was a once in a lifetime event. And while some schools did begin to build storm shelters, it just wasn’t possible for every school or every school district.
Before you condemn the state for not legislating it, or the schools for not pushing for it, remember that there weren’t parents clambering in the streets for school storm shelters either. We all did tornado drills as kids. We all know where they send our kids when there is a storm. And most of us are ok with that. We actually believe that our children are safer in that big strong building than they would be at home. Those who don’t believe that, go to the school and pick their children up anyway, or just keep them home on storm days altogether.
And despite the criticism, please remember that while seven bright, beautiful children were lost at Plaza Towers, and that is so tragic, the vast majority of the students in that school survived. And every student at Briarwood survived.
I mourn those precious lost children, and I rejoice for the ones who were saved. But I refuse to condemn or criticize our state, our schools or our parents for not doing more. We each do the very best we can for our children and no one who is not in our position should judge. Should there now be a discussion about further storm safety in our schools? Absolutely! Should it come from national news anchors? Absolutely not! It should come from us. The Okies.