Yesterday was one of those days that will live with me forever.
As long as anyone can remember Chickasha proper has never been hit by a tornado. Tuesday ended that amazing streak.
Tuesday morning I was writing a blog and I realized the women in my life that I missed. Tuesday evening a tornado obliterated one of those women’s mom’s house. Her mom is one of the kindest and most caring women I know. It is rare to meet someone with such a giving spirit. Yesterday I went out to help with what I could.
I have lived in Oklahoma for two decades and I have never seen anything like what I found yesterday morning. The destruction was the most terrifying and beautiful thing I have ever seen. I always read descriptions of tornado damage and snicker a bit at the cliches. Now I get it.
The first thing you think when you drive through is that all that rubble used to be houses. The colored smears littering the sides of the roads and in the trees where someone’s life. The tank the size of a small house wedged in the tree tops takes a moment to process. The sheet metal wrapped around a tree is so incredible it makes your brain stop and rewind a bit.
Later that day after the shock wore off I got to really see the scene. The trees amazed me the most. When you live in Oklahoma you know intellectually what tornadoes can do to trees. Actually seeing the trees stripped down past their bark and some picked up whole and thrown down a few feet away like an arbor graveyard is completely different from knowing anything intellectually. I still don’t know how I feel about thinking it was so beautiful.
The things that the tornado saved was stunning and random and sometimes heart breaking. The house was completely ripped off it’s foundations and dashed against the side of the road or into trees. Yet, we found things like an unharmed bottle of cheap champagne. I found a mirror that was completely undamaged. There were pictures scattered among the broken glass, raw bacon, and insulation. Delicate little porcelain figurines survived without even a chip. The most fragile was a four day old puppy. He lost his mother and siblings but he lived and is getting the best of care.
The police had road blocks set up on the road that lead into the area I was helping in yesterday. One could hope that it would prevent the ghouls away with their cameras and their gawking. No such luck. I know it is natural curiosity but when you are there with the person whose life it is mangled and strewn out naked before the world, it is hard to understand that curiosity.
When I showed up at about 10:30 am a few people had shown up to help but it was pretty quiet. I realized that we needed tools and there were some cats that needed caring for so I left to handle that. When I got back about an hour and a half later there was an army there.
People from this woman’s work took vacation days to show up and help her. They had shown up with pizza, chairs, bags, ice chests, and sunscreen. About nine women and one man came over simply because they loved this woman. Karma did not cause the tornado but her kind and giving spirit did bring her friends out to help her. She got offer upon offer for places to stay and people were practically begging to help her.
By this time, too, the traffic had started to pick up. I was annoyed honestly and I had to pretend they were on their way to help others down the road. I was about to start getting hostile with the vehicles until the first complete stranger stopped to ask if we had water.
The other army mobilized. People had bought flats of water and were driving around offering water to everyone they saw working. As the day went on more and more offers of water came by and one woman had went and bought packages of cookies and baby wipes and handed them out. The effect of a cookie and a wipe to clean your face is astounding when you have spent the day sweating and worrying. I am tearing up thinking of it.
There are many many things that I do not care for about this state. Everyone has heard me bitch about it. This is why it is worth staying. The people of Oklahoma care. They will judge the crap out of you but if you are in trouble they will open their hearts and help with everything they can. Helping and caring is not a choice here, it is the way of life.
Today I am sunburned and sore as hell. I don’t know that I did much good yesterday but I do know I saw the best of what people have to offer here. I am thankful.