This began as a much different blog post…
I was multitasking. I was writing a post on biosecurity – and thawing out something for dinner – and telling J-Bear to do his chores – and half watching the news since we were supposed to have a good chance of some severe weather – when I heard someone say “TORNADO” and “Moore” in the same sentence. I stopped writing, stopped talking, and pulled up News9 on my laptop.
If you are from Oklahoma you probably understand why that would get my attention. I think every Oklahoman has some reason to remember the tornado that began in Moore before tracking halfway across the state in 1999. I had family in Moore in 1999, so I watched in horror as the storm blew away so much of that town, then traveled up the highway to flatten Tanger Outlet Mall in Stroud. And when it continued up the highway to Sapulpa, it was the first and last time I ever hid in a bathtub from a storm. J-Ella‘s Pre-K teacher had them draw a picture of what they did during the storm, and hers said “Mommy made me lay in the bathtub with her. She squished me a little.”
As soon as the streaming video came up, the weatherman started talking about Briarwood Elementary School. He said that the school had been destroyed, along with the neighborhood to the south. I forgot that I even needed to make dinner and started scouring the faces and structures on the screen.
The year after that tornado, we moved to Moore and lived there for 5 years. J-Bear was born while we lived there, and J-Ella attended Briarwood Elementary School from Kindergarten through 4th grade. We lived 5 short blocks from the school – one block south and four blocks east. Every day I would put J-Bear in his stroller and walk J-Ella to and from school. Sometimes we’d stop and play on the school playground. J-Ella was so proud of her baby brother and she loved showing him her school. Sometimes J-Ella’s best friend would walk along with us and then they’d ride bikes in the street while J-Bear and I played on the front lawn.
J-Bear had a “writing spider” who lived on his window. She would spin her web over and over, tearing it down and “rewriting” it almost every day. J-Bear and J-Ella loved watching to see what new designs she would draw. I remember the living room with the wall I painted the perfect shade of blue. The kitchen with the little window where I could wash dishes and watch J-Bear play and watch Veggie-Tales. So many happy memories in that house. Now I don’t even know if it’s still standing. I don’t think it is. I don’t know who lives there now, or if they survived.
I saw some aerial views of the school and surrounding neighborhoods and I couldn’t recognize anything. It’s all just gone. I pulled up our old house on Google Maps and tried to get my bearings and figure out where the storm shots were taken, but I just couldn’t place anything. It’s all just a pile of rubble.
So many happy memories in that house, but so many hard memories too. The family that lived there no longer exists – at least not in that form. We survived the tornadoes that turned our lives into rubble – but not without deep scars. The baby boy who grew and laughed there struggles with anger and disappointment. The little girl who read to her brother and dreamed of being Brittany Spears (before she got weird) has deep self-esteem issues and a desperate need for a father’s love that she will never have. The mother who thought her little family was perfect has managed to rebuild a life, but will always have deep, mostly hidden doubts that any man, even a wonderful and faithful man like Mr. Fix It, can really love her forever.
The people from Moore will rebuild their homes and their lives. God was with them through the destruction and will be with them through the rebuilding. The school that had become a little run down and ragged around the edges will be clean and sparkly and new. The homes will be newer and worth more. The fears will subside and the hurts will heal. The dead will be mourned, and new babies will be born and grow and laugh and play. Scars will remain and no one will forget, but new and better blessings will come.
J-Bear could give in to his anger – and sometimes he does for a moment – but he is an amazing young man who really tries to use his life to bless others every day. J-Ella could have grown bitter and fearful – but she has grown into a bright and beautiful young woman who loves deeply and lives joyfully. I could have withdrawn and let fear keep me lonely but unhurt – but I let Mr. Fix It in and God has used him to heal my heart and bring a new kind of joy I had never known before.
Moore will rebuild, but God will use countless people to heal their hearts and restore their town. I hope that you will be one that God uses.
If you would like to make a donation to help in this effort, my favorite organization is BGCO Disaster Relief. I know that every penny donated goes directly to relief efforts (administration costs are covered by the Southern Baptist churches of Oklahoma). My father is in Moore now as a chaplain with one of their relief teams.
Of course, everyone knows and trusts the American Red Cross.
And along with those tangible offers of help, please don’t forget to pray. Pray hard, pray long, pray fervently, pray frequently.