Oklahoma Heroes

Image of tornado with flying words by Jasmine Mulliken

There are arguments to be made about how we, as Oklahomans, might better prepare for deadly tornadoes like the one that ripped through Moore and Oklahoma City Monday, killing 24 people, injuring more than 300 and destroying hundreds of homes.

But, for now, what seems overwhelmingly important is the grief and mourning most of us in this area feel about those who died and who lost their homes. We’re mostly numb here in this place. Those of us, like myself and family, who are safe and sound, homes intact, can only imagine the real pain hundreds if not thousands of people are feeling now, especially the parents of those children who died at Plaza Towers Elementary School in Moore.

The images on the television, the newspaper photographs, haunt us, make most of us feel discombobulated and, if possible, less secure here in a place where suddenly a tornado drops from the sky and grows, like something in a science fiction film, into a debris-wrapped killer that turns a typical American suburb into a war zone. Where I watched the tornado hit on television only 20 minutes away, it was calm, with the sun peeking in and out of clouds.

This is our home, for better or worse, and it has been seriously violated as it has been before and will be again. It seems too much for words right now, but they will come as we process our grief.

What strikes me, though, against the terrible sadness is the human redemption we witnessed among the children who bravely dealt with the tornado's destruction at their schools, their courageous teachers and, of course, the area’s first responders. They prove our humanity and can keep us going in this dark time in the Oklahoma City area.

What’s clear is that teachers covered their students with their bodies as destruction struck. Children hung tight and survived. First responders, both firefighters and law enforcement officers, dug them out from the rubble.

The community, as usual, later responded to help in droves literally by the thousands.

I mostly write about Oklahoma politics here. There is much to say about how, in general, teachers and some first responders are currently at odds with the present state government in terms of pay, benefits and appreciation, but that’s for another day. Suffice it to say, we take them for granted at the expense of our larger community.

Moore, Oklahoma City and the state will get through this, but let’s hope we learn a lot, too, and we come to better appreciate some of our real culture’s heroes, teachers and first responders. Let’s listen better to our children, as well, and love them even more.