Monday, May 12, 2008

A Heavy Dose of Reality

As you might have heard earlier this past weekend, Northeast Oklahoma was hit hard by two crazy big tornadoes.  Picher, OK took the brunt of the two twisters and pretty much decimated the small town of a 1,000 or so people.  And in case you're wondering where we are in relation to that, it's only about 4 miles.  4 very small miles that can change your perception on just how lucky you are.

It was almost 6pm when Rudy (our wrangler up here at Cave Springs) called me on the radio telling me to step outside and take a gander at what was heading our direction.  As I looked to the sky, I saw blackness and the remnants of 2 tornadoes that had just dissipated and went back up into the sky, effectively skipping right over the camp and saving us from utter destruction.  My first thoughts were, "dang, I didn't get to see it actually on the ground moving."  But those thoughts changed quickly when I imagined what might have been.  It's kind of weird because I think in reality, all of is would like to witness something like this because of the sheer magnitude and power of something we can't control or stop.  When I lived on the East Coast, it was the same way with hurricanes.  You always thought they were cool from a distance, but once they got close to you, you were scared and praying for mercy upon whatever the storm touched.
So after all that going through my head, my thoughts turned to who did take the hit of those 2 tornadoes, which the Meteorologists tagged with Class 4 classifications (the highest is 5).  In the next 10-20 minutes, people were calling us asking if we were okay and going through their own checklists of who they have called and heard from.  The lone person no one had heard from was Dana Kelly, our Director of Food Services at camp.
Moving forward a couple days to today, Rudy and I drove out to her house and witnessed the devastation of Picher.  Dana lived right in the path of the tornadoes and her house was hit hard.  Although, she didn't take nearly as much pounding as her neighbors.  Only about 100 yards behind her house, 6 people died in an area that was cluttered with empty places where houses once stood.  Where memories had been made by families that once lived there.  Just driving there, it was hard to take it all in and then comprehend the fact that I still have everything.  We drove past one house where a man was literally sitting there staring at this huge pile of rubble that I can only assume was once a place of security, happiness, and bliss.  But he was just sitting there staring at it.  And here I am driving through all this staring as well, but with no loss.  Well, I take that back.  A loss for words.  
We got Dana's things all packed up and luckily, all of her major appliances were still in working order.  Now she literally has to abandon her house so that insurance people and FEMA can come in and inspect.  I felt like a huge idiot when I asked her what her next move was.  She responded with, "I don't know" and it seemed to be sufficient.  How do you know in a time like this when in a matter of 10 minutes, everything is stripped from you?  Fortunately, she has a place to stay and is ready to move past this whole mess.
I'm sorry if this was a depressing post.  But it was something that hit me really hard and something I will never forget.


JSMcGuire said...

Welcome to Oklahoma. I remember when I was in Arkansas working a softball game on campus and I heard there were tornadoes heading towards OKC. I called John immediately and he said he knew they were coming, he thought it was so cool the sky was orange...I said, "that's not cool!!! Get inside!" Luckily, that particular storm missed Tinker and was heading to Arkansas and since we are in the mountains, by the time it got to Fayetteville it downgraded to a severe storm. In 1999, OKC was hit really hard by a Cat 5 tornado, I had a friend whose house was safe but her neighbor's was demolished. When I was in the fourth grade, my dad and I were driving two miles down the road to our farm to feed the horses when off to the distance, we saw a tornado drop out of the sky and the funnel raced through fields and you could see the debris flying through the air. Keep in mind that particular tornado was 15 miles from our house and we were only a quarter of a mile from the house. We turned around, parked the truck in the barn, and ran into a shielded corner. You can't imagine the loudness of a tornado. When we came out, there was pink fuzz everywhere that resembled cotton candy...the tornado lifted the ceiling on the barn, slammed it down, jumped the fence, and hit the house across our fence and destroyed it. Luckily the family wasn't home so they were safe. I say all that to say I can relate. Although I can't relate to your friend's emotions, it is a scary situation. Growing up in Oklahoma my brother and I had bunk beds in the cellar because during the springtime we spent many a night down there. I could go on and on about tornado stories but I'm probably boring you and running out of room...maybe I should blog about it, lol. Anyway...I thought about you when I saw Picher was hit...I'm glad you are safe. Love ya!

Courtney Hope said...

wow. that is devestating. you are completely right. things beyond our control lend themselves to bringing us back to reality very quickly. i'm glad everyone is healthy and unharmed. we're thinking about you guys:)

Rusty Shackelford said...

I always thought tornadoes were so cool until one went right through downtown nashville when I was 12. I remember walking outside and seeing the funnel cloud spin right over our house and then drop a mile a way and utterly destroy the east side of the city. The only words that came out of my mouth were "oh Jesus, please help me"... Scared me to death. Funny how in certain "sticky" situations thats the one thing we can say. Im glad you are all right. Keep things hoppin in the OK.

Shannon Kelly said...

i just finished reading the emails from my friends in Chengdu, recently hit with that 7.8 quake. yours is not the only heavy dose of reality I've heard lately...I'm at a loss for words too