I've been in Oklahoma all of the life I can remember, having moved here as a young child. Tornadoes were a part of being an Oklahoman. In schools, we would have our fire drill days where we would evacuate the building and stand in the parking lot, and then there would be the tornado drill days where we would crawl under our desks (or for those in really unlucky classes, the boys bathroom-at least it never seemed like I got the girls bathroom). Drills like this never really prepare you for what happens when something truly does happen.
It usually seems to happen at night, when you're at home. The air starts smelling a little bit funny and you can look out and see the clouds rolling in. The television is taken over by weather coverage, no matter how far away the bad weather is. I can joke that I learned more about Oklahoma geography during spring tornado season than I ever did in a classroom (really Oklahoma? You put a town named Hooker right next to a town named Beaver?!). When I got older and started living on my own, I could tell how close the storm was based on how many of my neighbors were out drinking on their front porch with football helmets on. The rain and hail come in, and of course there's at least one crazy parent in each family that goes outside to see how big it is, but when the sirens go off and you know it's close, everyone gets in the safe place. Sometimes it helps, and unfortunately sometimes it doesn't.
This latest storm has current death toll numbers being reported at 24, hundreds injured, and countless people affected by a nearly two mile wide tornado that traveled through 17 miles of homes and businesses in a heavily populated area. The thing about this one is that it moved slow and was on the ground a very long time for tornadoes. I've heard from people and seen on Facebook "why would you want to live there?" or "why would you build your house in that area?" (a year ago, amazing humanitarian Pat Robertson blamed devastation from tornadoes on not only a lack of praying, but also on people's choices to live in tornado areas). Well, I guess you'd have to ask my parents why they moved here (but don't, cause I totally know my dad took a job here, and tada! we became Oklahomies), but I have the same sense of pride in my state as Californians do even with their earthquakes, Floridians do even with their hurricanes, and I'm sure every other area does even with their common disasters.
I don't know anyone directly who lost a family member or home, but being 10 miles away from the main area (read: close enough that I can drive that way for lunch and back when I'm at work), I know plenty of people who unfortunately do know people who've lost loved ones or worldly belongings. It's amazing the outcropping of support from large local businesses, athletic celebrities, and everyday people. We're Oklahoma the same as we're Joplin, New Orleans, Sandy Hook, Boston, New York/New Jersey, and so many other places with both man made and natural disasters. For every horrible human being in Oklahoma like Tom Coburn (who, no worries, is holding our relief funding efforts just as much hostage as he's held yours), there are countless individuals who are donating time, belongings, money, and support to those hardest hit.
To be a cool human being, feel free to text REDCROSS to 90999 in order to donate $10 to the Oklahoma Red Cross relief effort, try any of the number of ideas listed here, or just give your moral support where it's needed. Ya know, if you're at the bar, when some creep won't stop talking to you, offer to put your number into their phone for them and do the above texting instead. Whatever! We appreciate your support and we will return it should you ever need.
Love to all, and as the weathermen always say over and over again: be weather aware tonight.