Wednesday, July 10, 2013

May 20: A Million Things

 I think this will be my last 'May 20' post. I think. While the process of debris removal and cleanup continues in Moore and the process of rebuilding is just beginning, the people of Moore have proven again that they are a lovely people who work, fight, and play together. BJ and I have been so pleased to see our community come together in a voting contest to help rebuild Veterans Park, which is our neighborhood park that was destroyed in the storm. At this point, the southern end of the park is now open again for walkers, joggers, and families; the northern end, which took the most direct hit, still looks like a wasteland, and sadly that is where the park's main attractions were. As of now, the playground, picnic pavilion, covered bridge, and veterans memorial are gone or damaged, but we are eager about the rebuilding process, and this contest could help a lot! If you haven't signed up yet to vote, please do by clicking here! Voting ends on July 14 I believe, and the votes count for double on those last couple of days! Currently Veterans Park holds a lead, which would be a prize of $100K.

Last week I also received in the mail my Oklahoma heart necklace from a local jewelry-maker called Vintage Pearl. Half of the proceeds went to Oklahoma disaster relief, and this necklace helped by raising $180,000 worth of funds! Now I can carry on me always my love for my community and a reminder of its strength. Hooray!

On a more serious note, I don't think I can do justice by trying to describe the emotions that most people in Moore continue to feel on a very frequent basis. Heartache and grief are not over, and not only for those who lost a loved one or their home. Even for BJ and me, whose material losses were unspeakably small, a feeling of grief and sadness pervades our beings at times as we reflect on the storm or drive about town through the remnants of what is left. The area of 4th and Telephone is particularly upsetting for me, and it was the intersection in town that I avoided the longest because I knew it would be hard for me to face. BJ and I drove through this intersection daily before the tornado; the 7-Eleven where Megan and Case Futrell and Terri Long were killed was our primary gas-up spot. Donuts are across the street, the recycling center was a few blocks north, the Moore Medical Center which is home to our amazing pediatrician Dr. Harmon is right at the intersection, and just behind it was Plaza Towers Elementary (where seven children were killed), businesses, and hundreds of homes. Now, it is a vast expanse of nothing. It truly looks like a war zone, and I kid you not when I tell you that it cripples our hearts to drive through. Crosses stand at the 7-Eleven, toothpick trees remain at the nearby Little River Park, and barren concrete pads where there used to be buildings greet the eye as one looks into a half-mile wide expanse of nothing remaining, smack dab in the middle of the city. We drove through the intersection three evenings ago and I was flooded with the familiar heartache; I asked BJ,
"How long do you think it will be before we can drive through here without feeling so awful?"
His slow response: "Oh... Probably never."
He's right. I know he's right but I didn't want to hear it. Of course this will never really leave us because it has become a part of just sucks because it's a part of us that hurts. And then the light turned green and we drove through, the hundredth time I have driven through sobbing.

Megan and Case Futrell. My story on Megan and Case is not done here; I actually have the opportunity to share with the world an amazing contribution that Megan and Case both made to the Oklahoma Mother's Milk Bank following their passing, but details must follow later. May their sweet souls rest in peace.

Dr. Harmon, on the right, pictured outside the Moore Medical Center on the first day of demolition. Goodness, how we love Dr. Harmon!

As BJ and I got out about a month ago and surveyed the damage to our familiar haunts on the west side of Moore (we live on the east side and had mostly limited our travels to there), we saw firsthand the devastation that was done to my uncle's home and Wallace Horse Park, which is located right next door to the famous Orr Family Farm. Ten years ago next month, BJ and I were married in the backyard of my uncle's beautiful home; it had been the dream home that I had eyed since childhood, and when my aunt and uncle purchased it I couldn't have been more thrilled. They graciously allowed us to invite our friends and family to celebrate our vows in August 2003 in their beautiful backyard, and our memories are untarnished although the house was devastated. Next door is the horse park where my family lived for a year while I was in college. My parents were in the process of building their current home, so we rented the ranch house there on the park and lived next door to my aunt and uncle. I can't describe to you how much fun it was to live there! The horse park was home to about 200 horses, stables, an arena, and pastures for the horses to graze upon. Some of the horses were my regular friends and I visited them daily in the pasture right outside my bedroom window; I even named a few of the horses, although I know these sweet girls belonged to someone else and already had names, I didn't know what they were so I created names like Kissing Annette and Golden Glory. My mom would even wake in the middle of the night to help the ranch hands, who also lived on houses on the horse park property, deliver horse babies when the time had come. When it was time for us to move to my parents' new house, my mom was given one of the horses that she helped to birth in exchange for her promise that she would not race him. She named him Baron and he is a giant turkey. I smile just thinking about these times.

On the afternoon of May 20, the horse park took a direct hit. Three-quarters of the horses were killed, and all of the buildings on the horse park property, including the ranch house where we made our memories, were completely annihilated. Not a wall was left standing on that entire farm. My brother told me the story of a ranch hand who didn't even take cover; up until the time the tornado actually hit, he was running frantically from stall to stall, opening gates as quickly as possible, giving each horse a chance to escape doom. As the winds bore down, the giant stable collapsed. The ranch hand, whose name I don't know, amazingly survived with injury as he was buried in the rubble.

A few weeks after the tornado hit, I was relaying these tales to my best friend via text.  I told her about our wedding, the ranch house, our fun times, the devastation from the storm, the dead horses, and the story of the ranch hand. She asked me incredulously,
"How have you not told me about this part before now?"
I read her question aloud to BJ and we both vocalized roughly the exact same thought:
" was just one of a million things. We lost so much that day. It was only one of so many pieces lost, and where do you even start or finish?"

Thousands upon thousands of people in Moore, southwest Oklahoma City, and Newcastle have "pieces" from May 20. For them, it probably isn't the site where they got married, but it was something else plus something else plus something else, all adding up to one giant swirling loss that continues to be dealt with today. I daresay we'll carry these pieces forever, just as BJ suspected when I asked him how long it's going to hurt to drive through 4th and Telephone. We can't exactly forget a million things.

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