The May 20th Tornado

Was terrifying.

Randy's Living Room View

I don’t think I realized at the time how scared I was. Actually, I know I didn’t realize how scared I was. I was all amp’d up on adrenaline – making sure Anna was getting to a safe place, trying to get home, getting hailed on, trying to find a safe place for myself, working to conserve water, keeping up with the reports on the radio all night.

I broke down on Tuesday. I wrote in my journal Monday night and Tuesday afternoon. The second processing of it was brutal. It could just as easily gone any other way. I could have decided not to go out and just stay home due to the inclement weather. The tornado could have veered just a bit to the north. 3 miles. That’s how far it was from the apartment. Three. Effing. Miles.

I didn’t know I was scared when it was happening. The fear kind of found a little spot in my brain and hung out for a while. It’s like when you’re getting a shot as a kid. Sure, it hurts when they stick you with that needle, but I never, ever wailed before or during my immunizations. It was the minute the doctor walked out and my mom said something like “Are you okay?”

That’s when I always lose it. When someone asks me if I’m okay. It’s been relatively easy to answer that question in this instance because I can just pretend that they’re all asking about whether I’m physically okay, whether my apartment/car/belongings are in tact. And that’s all true, certainly. So, yes, I’m okay. But I really hadn’t panned things out emotionally and mentally. Maybe I still haven’t. But I’m working on it.

The pictures and the videos on the news don’t compare, not even a little bit, to what it’s like when you see it in person. The destruction is right along the interstate. It’s overwhelming. It’s all overwhelming. It takes you back to that moment and there’s this deep sense of empathy for the people who were in those buildings – knowing but not knowing what it must have felt like. You have to wonder when you see it how anyone survived, above ground or not. How on earth it’s going to get cleaned up. How the heck these people are going to have to completely start over and create a new household.

Then, I went and worked at Journey church. It became one of the largest distribution centers in the OKC area. The supplies are endless, it seemed, on Tuesday. Today, I saw that those supplies had increased ten-fold. That’s how I know that all these people are going to get back on their feet. Everyone in Oklahoma is going to help them, give them whatever they need.

I even knew as of Tuesday that if the worst (barring death) had happened and I was a victim with nothing but the clothes on my back, I would be okay. There is so much support here. It’s a good feeling. It’s the kind of feeling I’ve been clinging to. It’s the kind of feeling I’m hoping to spread around when I volunteer my time and energy at places like Journey. That’s what gets people through this. It’s not about the stuff. It’s about the people. It’s about embodying helpfulness. And love.

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