Tuesday, June 18, 2013

May 20 and May 31: The Impact on Silas

I can think of many words that describe the process of watching Silas process the, ah, 'inclement weather,' that we have had in Moore over the course of the past month. The words interesting and heartbreaking are the two that most often come to mind for me. Not a day goes by that he doesn't talk about what has happened or somehow incorporate it into his play. As a psychologist, I know how important it is for him to be able to express his feelings about what has happened, whether through questions, observations, or play, because his feelings are absolutely as valid as mine or anyone else's; I also know that young children typically process the big things in life by playing about them because they aren't mature enough to sit down and talk about them like you and I can. At times I find myself cheering him on a bit, even if silently, because he is doing what he is supposed to be doing. Still, when it happens I sometimes hate to see it, and I hate that it has come to this---games that remind me of the destruction of my own community.

When I look around at what this boy sees everyday, I think, how could he not take notice? How could he not be impacted? I told my friend Sommer that I fear these will be the first memories that his three-year-old mind permanently creates, because the magnitude of what he has experienced with this is truly that big. Our home cannot be accessed without driving directly through ground zero, which is only a few hundred feet away. He sees his parents and all of the adults in his life talking about the tornado, its aftermath, what we were doing, what we were thinking, although fortunately these conversations are becoming less frequent as the adults here are moving on as well. We are not to be blamed for this either; waiting to talk about this until after the children go to bed is absolutely impractical when for a long time it was all we could think about, when we were all engaging in hours and days and weeks of cleanup, when we all get skittish about storms rolling in. The tornado has simply become a new normalcy here, and there is nothing that anybody can do to change that. I realized as I saw the damage for the first time myself that there would be no hiding this from Silas, so he would have to face it like the rest of us, except in a more kid-appropriate way. When normal things like your post office, your pediatrician's office, your bank, your primary gas station, your restaurants, your parks, and parts of your neighborhood are gone, you deserve to know why and not to have it hidden from you.

May 31 didn't help things at all. Everyone was nervous all day long about the forecast for the day, and sure enough another EF-5 tornado did take place on the other side of the metro that evening, resulting in more loss of life. This tornado also spawned smaller ones, at least one of which hit Moore again and caused further damage. Spending yet more time watching the storm chasers and meteorologists on TV was upsetting him, but we had to watch it for our own safety; and when it was time to make our way to the underground shelter next door, we did the best we could and made as good a time as we could of it with eight adults, five children, a dog, and supplies down in a 3x8 foot cement hole in the ground for 45 minutes. I couldn't help thinking the whole time though, this does nothing but solidify the impact of this season on all of us, including our beloved children.

 The crazy clouds before the May 31 storm. Never a good sign!
 The May 31 storm making its way into the metro. The sky was so dark and foreboding that I lost my appetite during dinner. This is extraordinarily dark for this time of day; you can see some of the lighter shades of sky just above those houses to the right. 

 Six inches of rain fell that night, and BJ joked that we suddenly had lakefront property.

Silas has shown BJ and me that he is thinking about the tornadoes in practically a hundred ways. He becomes visibly nervous when it storms, and he refuses to sleep in his own room if it storms at night. When the thunder becomes loud enough during a storm at any time, he announces that "It's time to go to the cellar now!" Not only does he continue to point out obvious signs of the tornado's damage as we drive about town (such as, "That car got crushed by the tornado."), but he also sees the tornado's 'damage' in things that truly have nothing to do with the tornado (such as he bends over and picks up a jagged rock out of the street and says, "Mommy, this rock got broken. The tornado did that to it.") At least once a day I hear him tell his construction vehicles to take quick cover because a tornado is coming; I may interject as the vehicles are hiding under curtains and ask, "Is the tornado finished yet?" and he may reply, "Yeah, but here comes another one!" His lifetime aspirations now include driving various construction vehicles (namely a feller buncher) so that he can assist with clean-up in the park that he misses. And when he sees someone walking in the direction of the park as we are driving by, he excitedly asks if they are going to play in the park. We always tell him that the park is still broken and can't be played in, and it is obvious to us that he had hoped that maybe somebody had fixed it all up while we had gone about our day.

I love my little three-year-old boy and I'm so proud of him as he makes sense of this reality in his beautiful little mind. They say that adversity makes people stronger and wiser, so by that adage our little Silas, and every comprehending child in Moore (which doesn't seem to include George, who has been unperturbed by all of this), will be wise beyond their years. A bright future awaits us!

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Georgie Speaks

Hi! My name is George, but my family mainly calls me Georgie and I call myself Guggy. I'm adorable, and a giant ham, and I use this to my advantage with strangers whenever possible!


This here is called my "ninny." When my brother, whom I call "Da-Lice," was my age, he began calling his blanket his ninny, and I figure I'll do the same. Something I do that my brother doesn't, though, is cherish my little ninny tag. When my auntie Christa was a little girl she also was infatuated with her tag and she named it her "fa-fa." She rocks, so I'll do the same. Love my fa-fa...

Wait a second, guys! Something's going on! I hear a noise in the sky! What could that be?

 Aaahh, it's a helicopter, which I prefer to dub "ca-ca." Good thing we live right on the edge of the disaster path! These ca-ca's go over our house ALL THE TIME!

Okay, what were we saying? Oh yes---that I'm cute. Carry on...

Monday, June 3, 2013

May 20: The Good of It

I've said many times how much I love Oklahomans; I said it just a month ago in my post about the Memorial Marathon. And I've said how good I think people are in this post about human nature too. As a resident of Moore, who admittedly lost very little in terms of material possessions so I can't speak for someone who lost much more, my feelings of despair about the May 20th tornado have been tempered tremendously by the good feelings that have arisen from the caring people that I have seen and been amongst. Beginning with the moment my dad and I rounded the corner of our cul-de-sac and I saw my home for the first time after the tornado with a 24-pack of Aquafina waters and a box of contractor bags mysteriously plopped on my porch (with no note), I have come to realize all over again that people are in this to help each other...and I'm not just talking about Oklahomans.

License plates that I have seen driving around in my neighborhood and my park over the last two weeks include Texas, Kansas, Missouri, South Dakota, Minnesota, New York, New Jersey, Wisconsin, South Carolina, New Mexico, North Carolina, Colorado, Louisiana, and California. This isn't normal, believe me! I saw people in these cars and trucks driving around all the time in the first week, and they weren't there to gawk. (By the way, on my soapbox, I understand that people are going to have an inclination to gawk. I have no problems with anyone coming and gawking in my neighborhood...as long as you are doing it while helping in some way!) Walking to and from the park while assisting with cleanup, I was offered drinks by people in pick-up trucks with hand-drawn signs such as "Colorado Springs 'Hearts' Moore" and "South Carolina is here to help!" This is like double-layering of volunteers here--volunteers helping volunteers! Even though I declined drinks from most of these people (I occasionally took a hot dog or bag of Famous Amos cookies though), my heart is warmed with love by each encounter.

The incident of people working together that I found to be the most personally overwhelming was on the morning of Saturday, May 25th in our park. One guy had organized a community initiative on Facebook to meet at the park at 9AM and clean it as best we could. I tell you this: the day before, my friend Heidi and I worked at the park for about two hours, picking up debris that averaged in size probably 2 feet by 1 foot and included all kinds of personal items. As Heidi worded it when we were done with our afternoon, she felt as though we had "skimmed the sand on a beach." The mess that was left was overwhelming. Well, on Saturday morning we moved our stuff back home since we had just gotten back electricity late the night before and we arrived at the park about an hour after start time. I was flabbergasted at the number of people that had shown up. My sister, brother-in-law, nephew, and mom all joined our family, and we put forth a conservative estimate of 500 volunteers in and around the park. They looked like ants crawling all over the place, scraping sidewalks, chainsawing fallen trees, picking dead turtles out of the creek (okay, that was my mom and me), bulldozing debris, and mostly just bending over time after time after time to pick up the tiny bits of debris that this grinder tornado had left in its wake. These pictures were taken with my phone and don't begin to do justice to the scene of volunteerism. Apart from the giant piles of debris spaced ten feet apart all around the edge of the park, this place is cleaner than before the tornado hit!


Maybe it's not really visible here, but there are probably a hundred people in this shot working in the homes closest to the park.
 Remember these pictures of the park, taken on Wednesday the 22nd?

Here's the same park, picture taken on Saturday the 25th. =)

Once everyone was done with the park, they picked their rakes, shovels, and work gloves up and stepped into the surrounding neighborhoods to assist those whose homes were demolished. 50 people would work all over one home, taking the rubble down to the curb and working until it was a clean-swept slab. I kid you not. And THEN, to top it off, out-of-state volunteers served EVERYONE a free, nice hot lunch at the park.

Let me say a little more about these out-of-state volunteers at the park. Impact areas in Moore have been zoned into different numbers, and our "zone" is at the front of our park. In this place, there were six-foot high stacks of waters, gatorades, food goodies, batteries, diapers, baby wipes, trash bags, work gloves, etc. The zone was manned and womanned from sun up to sun down with the giant grill always working, serving up hot dogs, hamburgers, chicken wings, and sandwiches to everyone who needed a bite, whether you were a volunteer, a person who lost your home, or just a person who was toughing it out at home with no water and no power. Each place had a medic, a cell phone charging station, and host of people from all over the place just there to help. They said, "Sit down! Can I get you a water? How about some hot dogs?" I swear, I cried at one point and hugged a woman who cheerfully served me food after Mowgli revolted during an afternoon's hard work. Our neighborhood's station was available all day long until just yesterday. That's a lot of hours!

To cap off Saturday, May 25th, we left the park and came home to find nearly the entirety of both of our families setting to work in our yard. All of the mess that BJ and I knew would take us days to clean was tackled; our moms and my brother-in-law picked up debris, my sister swept crud off the deck, my dad set up the power washer, BJ's dad cleaned the gutters, and we all knocked it out in three hours. Don't get me wrong; BJ and I weren't lazy asses this whole time. I actually worked so hard that I vomited, leading me to realize I probably better cool it a little; but what a feeling...all the help we got! I felt it then and I feel it everyday now---when I drive through other suburbs and see "Pray for Moore" signs, when ESPN sportscasters announce donations to Moore Disaster Relief, when friends from afar offer to help or offer a virtual hug, and when people contact me to tell me that my town and I are on their minds. From the bottom of this welling, emotional heart...thank you.