Tuesday, May 21, 2013

60 short miles

May 20, 2013 will be a day remembered in Oklahoma for a long, long time.  I know for me, yesterday made a permanent mark on my heart.  Here in Stillwater, we were about an hour away from the large tornado that tore through Moore, OK.  I was in my office at Oklahoma State University helplessly watching the news as a mile wide tornado devastated my state. 

Do you know what you do as a tornado destroys everything in its path 60 miles from you?  You pray.  That's about all you can do.  Because 60 miles away means the skies in Stillwater are clear, even sunny.  The horizon is quiet.  A few rain storms and dark clouds came through and I watched the weather report carefully, but my town was in the clear.  My home stayed put.  My family stayed safe.  My car remained untouched and my roads home were clear.  But 60 miles away was a very different story. 

I have lived in Oklahoma since July of 2006, so I have now experienced 6 tornado seasons.  Each with their own warnings, passing storms and damage.  I have run for cover when the sirens have gone off in Stillwater.  I have hid in my closet several times waiting for the storm to pass.  I have packed emergency kits, and worried about stock piling supplies.  I have called my mom many times to express concern over the looming storms approaching.  Two years ago around this time we had a small tornado in my own yard, thankfully only damaging several trees including a 40 ft tree that was torn up by it's roots and laid down along side my home.  I was 20 weeks pregnant at the time and terrified.  I remember crying in the closet because my swollen feet wouldn't fit into my shoes.  But the damage was minimal, life carried on.  Branches were quickly cleaned up, stumps were removed and all evidence of our close call disappeared.  I mostly forgot how quickly things can change, how fast it can go very, very bad and how small you really are in the eye of a tornado. 

Picture taken at our home in May 2011 of tree pulled up by tornado.
Do you recall the feelings of invincibility everyone has at some point in their life?  Perhaps it was something small like skipping a flu shot because you wouldn't get sick this year.  Or taking a chance walking home in the dark one night.  Maybe you speed on the highway because the cop wouldn't spot you.  Perhaps you spent hours in tanning beds as a college student because the danger of skin cancer couldn't touch you.  Or you got into a car with a friend who had a couple drinks because they were fine to drive.  I know there have been times for us all that we felt the bad things couldn't reach us, the chances were in our favor, the risk wouldn't hurt us.  Thats how most Oklahomans feel during tornado season.

But then yesterday happened.  And something changed for me.  Perhaps it was the fact that I am a mommy now.  Perhaps it was the massive damage and dozens of lives lost.  Maybe it was the children who were killed in their elementary school.  It could have been the heartbreaking news coverage of loss.  It suddenly felt like 60 miles away was nothing at all.  That could have been my daughter swept away from  her school.  That could have been my home reduced to wood pieces and trash.  That could have been my family searching desperately for each other.  My invincibility is now gone.  My fear of facing a tornado is real.  I no longer feel like this couldn't happen to me.  Because 60 short miles away it did happen.  I will never be able to dismiss another tornado watch.  I will never be able to leave Reagan at her school while we ride out a storm.  I will never be able to walk away from a weather report with dangerous predictions without worry and fear.  Even today people reminded me, Stillwater has only had one death due to a tornado.  I don't care, 60 miles away that isn't the case.  I am now afraid, for myself and for those already effected.  Tornado season hasn't passed us yet, and even when it does May comes around each year with all new dangers.  I now feel very, very tiny in the eyes of mother nature.  I am now very aware how horribly dangerous this time of year is my state.  It could happen to me.  It did happen here.  And it could happen again. 

Picture taken in the debris in Moore, OK on May 20, 2013
I watched as much news as I could take yesterday and then I just sobbed.  There are parents still waiting to hear about their children.  There are little ones lost forever.  I snuck back into Reagan's room last night and watched my peacefully sleeping toddler.  My heart broke for those families who won't get the chance to do that again, my soul wept for their loss.  I traced my finger down her arm and I wove my fingers through her hair.  She was safe and sound tonight because the deadly storm was 60 miles south of us.   60 short miles meant I tucked her into her warm bed tonight and went about a normal evening at home. 

The oddest part of this is that my life pretty much continues on as normal.  I did laundry last night, packed my lunch, showered and went off to work this morning.  But 60 miles away people are digging through debris hoping to find a survivor.  I sit in air conditioning and type while others stand in line for food and water.  My life remains almost unchanged while others lost everything.  The only difference was the path of the tornado, the only thing that separates my regular life and life threatening situation was 60 miles. 

Do you know what you do the day after an F5 tornado destroys everything 60 miles from you?  You make a plan to help.  Please consider helping me purchase supplies to send to Moore, OK. I am collecting donations Tuesday and Wednesday to purchase baby supplies including diapers, wipes, bottles, formula, baby food, blankets, and other items.
Please use PayPal ( https://www.paypal.com/webapps/mpp/send-money-online ) to send me instant money. There are NO FEES if you use your bank account or PayPal balance. This is also a secure way to send money, without sharing your banking information.
Use my email address: andrea.skimbo@okstate.edu

I will personally be purchasing and loading the items, so this isn't just cash I am handing off, it will be used properly and is very needed! Every bit helps, even $5, $10 or $20! My group, Badge Wives, will be transporting the items so this will directly reach the area.

When you lose your invincibility but keep everything else, you find ways to give to those who lost so much more.   Kiss the ones you love, and take tornado reports seriously.  Pray for those effected and God bless Oklahoma.   

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