Monday, June 3, 2013

The Day After

I live in Oklahoma. I grew up in Moore, I work in Oklahoma City. Tornado season is something I’m very familiar with; growing up, we learned to prepare for the worst and hope for the best. Over the years as multiple tornadoes blew through the landscape of my home, I watched as my hometown was destroyed time and again. And afterwards, every time, we rebuilt. As a child, I never understood why so many out-of-staters angrily asked us why we continued to live in Tornado Alley. As an adult, I asked the same question, eventually leaving for a few years. Last October, my husband and I returned to Oklahoma. In the ensuing 8 months, we’ve experienced 6 earthquakes and 3 major F4/F5 tornadoes, 1 of which has been dubbed the worst in recorded history. As we watched our state ripped to shreds, we asked ourselves again, “Why are we here?”

I’m here because it’s my home. I’ve lived most of my life in the Texas Oklahoma/Oklahoma Texas region, claiming allegiance to both states at various times.  But the truth is, there’s not much difference between the two states; both are mid-Southern, down home, and simple. They are full of good people who love whole-heartedly. I’ve lived outside of the South, and there are certainly wonderful people everywhere, but here in the Heartland there’s a sense of grassroots, salt-of-the-earth camaraderie.

Certainly this feeling of home, of belonging, is magnified during times of tragedy. Our fortitude was tested, our collective spirit fractured during the horror of the Murrah bombing and again during the devastation of the 1999 and 2013 tornadoes. And each time, the people of Oklahoma cried, asked why, dug our heels in and refused to be defeated. Unfortunately, these sad experiences aren’t limited to rare occurrences in Oklahoma. But, there’s something special in this red dirt. There’s something straight-forward, a genuine redemptive quality, that tells us and the entire world that better times are coming.

It’s the steely calm in the eyes of the families determined to not be uprooted. It’s the volunteers and donations pouring in so quickly, and in such huge quantities, that Red Cross is forced to call in additional workers to handle the avalanche of help. It’s the 2nd grader who busts open his piggy bank to donate 5 dollars worth of pennies to the Samaritan’s Purse. It’s the unrelenting faith in the basic goodness of people. It’s the neighbors who spend hours cutting down debris and sorting through what remains of a child’s bedroom so the parents don’t have to face that sadness alone. It’s the local businesses that stay open 24 hrs to deliver hot, free meals to everyone affected by the tornadoes. It’s the sense that when you’re in Oklahoma, you’re family.

It’s the way the typical Oklahoman looks forward to the coming dawn because we know the best is yet to be.

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