I was getting a mani-pedi after therapy yesterday when the name of my hometown started to pop up in my Twitter feed. It's not a name I'm used to seeing in the news -- when people ask me where I'm from I usually respond, "Do you know Oklahoma?" before answering, because if you don't know Oklahoma, you probably haven't heard of Moore.
My standard follow-up is to explain that my junior high show choir was called "Moore Attitude." That usually gets a laugh.
I read an AP story that said a "huge" tornado had blown apart neighborhoods and scattered debris across my hometown. This was before the death toll climbed to 51, before the pictures of elementary school kids being pulled out of the rubble.
I instantly felt useless. Half a country away, the town where I grew up was being ravaged and I was literally sitting there drying my nails.
I was a senior in high school when a similar tornado ripped through my town on May 3, 1999. It's not that it's not a big deal, but people there, we're kind of used to it. Tornadoes are a fact of life in Oklahoma, like how I imagine earthquakes are to Californians. Loss of property is the big fear -- you don't usually see these kinds of fatalities, not in the suburbs. You even get a little cavalier about the whole thing -- my dad and brother standing on the front porch watching a twister go by.
Tornado warnings are scary, especially as a child, but they're a threat only occasionally delivered upon. But when we emerged from the closet where we'd huddled for safety on May 3, it looked post-apocalyptic. Buildings were leveled, giant fast food signs on the ground. My high school was so damaged that we finished out the remainder of the school year at the local community college (where, let's be honest, we got very little work done).
Yesterday's tornado took almost the exact same path. The same town, the same community, slammed again, and worse this time, with more death.
My phone started ringing -- it was my best friend from back home, now living in LA, just checking in with me. His dad was fine, just lost some of his roof, but the house was still standing. I called my Mom, who had just talked to my grandma. Called my aunt, who told me that side of the family was all safe. I left the nail salon and did not watch the news -- I didn't want to catch glimpses of the places from my childhood memories destroyed. I wondered if my childhood home was still standing, and hoped it was for the sake of the people who live there now.
I put my baby to bed, which took over an hour as he bounced off the walls, singing and laughing and trying to roll his way out of the bed. When I felt annoyed, I tried to remember the parents in Moore who don't get to hug their babies tonight and just be grateful that he was home safe with me.
I donated to the Red Cross on my phone. Do that, if you want to do something simple.
Honestly, I didn't know what else to do and I still don't. It's weird experiencing a tragedy in your hometown from so far away -- like when a relative you're no longer close with dies. So far the people I know back home are saying to keep people aware and promote Red Cross donations, so that's what I'm doing. I've asked for specific suggestions on how we can help and what we should know. Some ideas below and I'll update as more come in:
You can donate to the Red Cross at redcross.org or text REDCROSS to 90999
To donate to SalvationArmyUSA.org, visit their website or text the word STORM to 80888 to make a $10 donation via cellphone.
To make a tax-deductible donation to the Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma, visit www.regionalfoodbank.org or call 405.604.7111. You can also text FOOD to 32333 to give $10 to relief efforts.
If the Salvation Army isn't your thing, (many of my friends are atheists and some have issues giving money to an organization that heavily promotes Christianity) there is already a page set up by the foundation Atheists Giving Aid for Oklahoma Tornado relief. You can give at this link: http://www.weareatheism.com/donate/atheist-giving-aid-oklahoma-tornado-relief/
Also a large number of deaths in this tornado were children who were trapped inside of their elementary schools. These schools DID NOT have shelters for staff and students to escape to in case of severe weather. I'm not sure what kind of sway non-Oklahomans have with our Governor, Mary Fallin, but I encourage them to flood her with pleas to include shelters in all new public buildings in Oklahoma. She can be mailed at the following address:
Governor Marry Fallon
Oklahoma State Capitol
2300 N. Lincoln Blvd., Room 212
Oklahoma City, OK 73105
And she can be reached via twitter at @GovMaryFallin
Finally, this, from @Nvkose: Okies are resilient but definitely could use prayer.