On Monday evening, I sat watching news coverage of the tornado damage in Joplin, MO – there were a few times that I had to fight back tears at the site of the destruction. It looked like a war zone. Tornados are not a new thing to me – I grew up in Texas and there were many times when my family had to take cover in the laundry room. In 2002, I moved to Oklahoma and tornados became an even bigger part of my life. I spent late nights covering tornados during the time that I was a reporter and now live just a few miles off the path of the May 3, 1999 tornado.
Yesterday weather forecasters predicted a dangerous weather day with a high chance of tornados. They compared the conditions to May 3, 1999 and to what caused the tornado in Joplin. I left work around 2 p.m. because I had been fighting a weather-related headache for two days and was starting to get nauseous. When I got home I flipped on the weather to see tornados already building in the west part of the state. I cleaned out our pantry and began gathering our flashlights, shoes, weather radio and a few other things. It wasn’t long before a huge tornado was wrecking havoc on parts of western Oklahoma, destroying everything in its path. News reports said the tornado had picked up trailers at Canton Lake and left them in trees. They feared many people were severally injured or dead.
I decided that it might be wise to remove all the canned foods from my pantry. The last thing I wanted was to survive a tornado, only to be killed by a can of green beans hitting me in the head. I removed all the cans from the pantry and continued to watch the live shots of the tornado that destroyed everything in its path. The massive storm was headed towards Interstate 40 and El Reno! The weatherman described the tornado as “one that kills.” I realized that if something of that magnitude hit Moore, our pantry would not save us.
I decided John and I should play things safe and go to a storm shelter with our friend Annette. As I began to pack a bag with some extra clothes I started thinking about other things that I should pack. In that moment nothing in my house mattered. As long as John, Story (our dog) and I were safe, I knew we could replace pretty much everything else in the house. I stuck my Bible in my purse and I did decide to take the huge binder full of our adoption paperwork. If my house was going to get blown away I wanted to save the 6 months of paperwork that will lead to my baby.
It wasn’t long after we were inside the storm shelter that tornados began breaking out all over the state. We listened as the weatherman described one bearing down on Newcastle – just a few miles southwest of where we were. Our friends Mike and Krista live there and were in the storm shelter with their children. The tornado destroyed an RV park and literally missed our church by about a mile. There for a while we thought the tornado that hit Newcastle was on a direct path towards where we were. There were a lot of prayers said in that storm shelter, especially as we got word of a tornado practically ripping apart the town of Goldsby and heading towards Norman. At one point storm chasers thought the tornado would pass across Interstate 35. When John and I left our house to go to the storm shelter, Interstate 35 was bumper to bumper traffic. We prayed that the tornado would go a different direction. Thank the Lord that it did. If it had come across Interstate 35, so many people would have been killed or injured. There was just absolutely no where for them to take cover.
About 7 p.m. we finally decided to head back home. At one point a possible tornado had been spotted in east Moore (very close to where we live). Although it never touched down, we still knew that there could be damage from the strong winds. Thankfully when we got home our house was standing and there was no damage. There was, however, some debris on our roof and in our backyard – who knows where it had come from.
We had yet to see any footage of the destruction because all we had was a radio in the storm shelter. We turned on the TV to see empty slabs where houses had once stood. We saw a lake littered with lumber that had once been someone’s home. In those moments, as you watch people, in shock, sitting in the middle of what was once their home, nothing else matters. It doesn’t matter how much money is in your bank account. It doesn’t matter if your house is clean. It doesn’t matter if you drive the latest and greatest car. What matters is that you’re safe. All that matters and all that you need is God.
This morning as I was driving to work, I was flooded with emotion as I prayed for all of those who lost everything yesterday. The most gut wrenching is the 3-year-old boy who is still missing because of the storm. His mother and siblings were taken to a hospital in critical condition, but they couldn’t find the 3-year-old. Just this morning they announced that one of the siblings had died because of injuries he sustained in the tornado. My heart just breaks for this mother who has lost one child and has no idea where the other one is. I pray that the 3-year-old is alive. I pray that they will find him soon for the sake of this heartbroken mother. I pray that despite how far the tornado might have carried this child, God’s hand of protection is on him and he is safe and alive. I believe in miracles!
I pray that all of those who lost homes and loved ones will feel God’s presence. That He will comfort them and give them the strength to face the devastation and destruction that they had to wake up to today. Will you pray too??