Like most of you, I watched in horror the scenes of the aftermath of the tornado that swept through Moore, Oklahoma this past Monday. Mr. Ashbury had to leave the room at one point, unable to watch any longer once it was announced that some children had been lost in the wreckage of the school.
For us, because we’ve been there, nothing is harder to bear witness to than the loss of a child, or the scenes that follow, of the parents having to cope with that loss.
He and I do have differing views on some things. I don’t believe in turning away from all bad news completely; for myself, I always seek to understand people, in all of their possible situations and predicaments. Even an author of fiction chronicles humanity and needs to get that right.
But I guess you could say I am also always looking for the gold amid the dross. Crap happens with alarming regularity and with impunity to just about everyone. There’s a core to me that insists on believing that there has to be a basic something at the heart of these tragedies that transcends the corporeal. If we let the bad in life be the bottom line, then the bad consumes us and the bad wins.
Debris is a word that somehow fails to communicate the degree of devastation that I saw. What I witnessed on my television screen was houses and other buildings, made of plywood and large pieces of lumber and brick and concrete reduced to kindling and dust. Aluminum siding became twisted missiles of metal. Debris has such a nice, classy sound to it but there was nothing classy in what I was looking at.
It is a heart-stopping, reality-shaking experience to stand before a pile of rubble and know that is all that is left of the house you had, the house where you lived and loved and laughed. That experience is made easier if your loved ones are safe. Because as total as that loss is, it’s still the loss of stuff and not lives.
So I was looking at this field of rubble that stretched for so far and I thought, how the hell do you fix that? Where do you start? And as I was watching and listening to the coverage, I heard the reporters say that the path this monster storm took on Monday was nearly the exact same path as their last monster storm on May 3, 1999.
That was just 14 years ago! I would imagine that many of the people whose homes were turned to rubble on Monday also had the same thing happen to them back then. The current mayor of Moore, Mr. Glenn Lewis, was also the mayor during the 1999 tornado. In other words, these people have been there, done that, and now are about to do it all over again.
You hear that from time to time, as you watch the news coverage of natural disasters. Some people have had their lives destroyed, have rebuilt, and then have them trashed again.
And as I was thinking about that I realized I had found my golden nugget.
We humans can be and are many things. We can do good, or not; we can make a difference in the lives of others, or not. But our species, at its heart, has an indomitable spirit that seems to rise to the occasion in the moments of greatest challenge.
Yes, there are always going to be some people who don’t reach out, who don’t help—some who have a “me first” or “me only” attitude. But there are also always those who do reach out, who do put others first and they are the ones whose image, whose presence, shines the brightest.
We will forever carry in our collective consciousness the memory of these people. The first responders running into the World Trade Center; the ordinary people side by side with uniformed cops and soldiers running toward the bomb blast in Boston; and now in Moore, the image of teachers stretching their bodies over the tiny bodies of their students, their only instinct to care for and protect these children. These are the examples of what humanity can be, and these are the images that endure.
This is who we are at our core, and this is how we need to think of ourselves, from time to time—as part of a whole that perseveres and in the end, triumphs over adversity.
Please donate something to help the people of Oklahoma rebuild. Even five dollars will make a difference. You can give to your church or local bank, to the Red Cross at www.redcross.org or, if you’re Canadian and want to help you can go to the Canadian Red Cross web site, http://www.redcross.ca/donate.asp and one of the options listed for donations is “Donate to the 2013 Tornadoes and Severe Weather USA Fund” . You don’t even have to have a credit card. They take PayPal.