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Stepping foot on storm ravaged sacred ground. “Hands and feet in Moore, OK May 23, 2013”

June 27, 2013


It was the middle of the day but the flashlight’s beam cast just the right amount of light in the pitch dark bedroom to offer a beacon to Beth as she quickly scanned her room selecting what she would save and reconciling herself to part with the remaining possessions.  I was careful as to where I stepped so as not to destroy anything that the tornado had left intact and to not step in any pools of water that stood in what 3 days ago was a dry carpeted home.   Beth’s mood was surprisingly jovial, made jokes and carried on a conversation with me about each item as she placed them in her suitcase or passed over them for lack of room.  She worked at a swift pace racing the clock and hoping the ceilings that remained would hold out. 


The smell was simply repulsive, potent even through my cloth mask.  The humidity in the room was truly uncomfortable but comfort was far from the word word one would use in this situation.  The ceilings were buckling from the weight of the water left behind by the unforgiving morning torrential downpour dumping an additional three inches of rain, hampering the victims’ best efforts to keep moving.


Kyle, Beth’s boyfriend, was a worker bee.   Moving from the house to the cars with determined purpose. He was not one who could judge the worth or importance of any items in their home but he was there to support and assist what was important to him:  Beth.  He and I took boxes out to the two cars and he carefully and calculatedly manipulated as many possessions in the back seats of his and Beth’s cars as he possible could.  He was doing what he could the very best he could, as all of us had humbly come to do.  We were not members of this unplanned newly formed a fraternity of survivors.  We were only witnesses to their realization of loss, pain, grieving, resolve and determination. 



I moved between helping Kyle carry out possessions to assisting Beth in her room to helping Beth’s mom collect some of her items from what used to be the kitchen and family room area.  There wasn’t much that could be saved from the kitchen being the roof had been ripped from the walls and splintered and scattered in a million pieces, throughout what to a passerby could appear to be a war torn 2 mile wide and 17-mile long vicinity.   The kitchen had been destroyed and the family room, and all possessions that it held, were soaked. 



Beth’s mom had secluded herself in the bathroom with two cats while the storm roared around and through the home.   When the noise subsided she apprehensively and cautiously opened the bathroom door not sure what she would find- or not find.  She moved about with determination and a mission to save what she could as fast as they could before the after effects of the storm destroyed more of the home. 


She spoke and motivated Beth in a authoritative yet consoling manner moving between directing Beth’s attention to items in her bedroom that she might want to rescue and foraging through the kitchen and family room rounding up items that she wanted to save.  I knew her for less than an hour and already I had her on my top 10 most admired list of people.  They were not only knocked down but had their foundation not just rocked but obliterated. Yet she stood back up and was empowering Beth to do the same.  Leading by her words and by example.  As I helped her pack up the items she handed me I thought of my home.  I tried to put myself in her shoes and wondered what would I save.  It would be easy for one to view the items I was packing for her as unimportant and replaceable:  ceramic figures, vases, a pan (one of the lone survivors from the kitchen), and some knick-knacks. But one would have to stand in their shoes to understand Beth and her mom were not simply saving the items they were preserving the memories accompanied those items that couldn’t and wouldn’t be destroyed by this tornado. 


After a few hours of decisions, sweat, memory lane visits, emotional moments and more sweat from the intense and stifling humidity, Beth, Kyle and her mom were loaded and ready to head toward temporary shelter just as the sun was ready to set.  Symbolic? 



While the forced exodus was taking place, Terry was outside assisting Kyle’s father clean up the fragments of unknown homes from the lawn and move items in the garage to the one corner that still could boast as “covered by a roof”.  He, Terry and everyone wanted to do more from the victims to the volunteers, but it quickly became apparent that this clean up, recovery effort and the only hope of moving forward and putting this historic stat tornado in their past was only going to be accomplished by many small actions, accomplished with tedious and frustrating labor assisted by unconditionally supportive hands and feet. 



As we all parted I thought of how this experience was unwanted, difficult and heart wrenching but had obviously already strengthened any resolve and resilience in Beth, her mom and every victim of this merciless storm.  The truth about storms is that they do end and the sun does come out.  We just have to focus on moving forward and not allowing the storms to keep us knocked down. 


Psalm 23:  Even though I walk through the darkest valley,I will fear no evil,
for you are with me.”

My most sincere wish for you is to experience in your life’s storms the temperament and acceptance of Beth, the strength and resolve of Beth’s mom and the unconditional and compassionate support of people like Kyle and his dad. 


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