As I have watched the news and seeing the devastation for the massive tornado that hit Alabama yesterday, and the many tornadoes that hit the south. I am reminded of the big one that hit in Oklahoma that was on the ground for over 70 miles and damaged my mother’s house in Moore, Ok. It was May 3, 1999, a day that changed many lives.
At the time, I lived in Edmond, and my daughter was in highschool preparing for a band concert that night, when the TV weatherman was telling everyone that a “big one” was coming and to get underground.
Living in Tornado Alley, the TV weathermen are the best in the US and they can pinpoint the Tornadoes down to the streets.
The one that touched down in Chickasha stayed on the ground through the edge of the H.E. Bailey Turnpike, and the edge of southwest Oklahoma City and tuned into Moore, then crossed I-35 and went into the edge of Del City, and then Midwest City and the edge of Tinker Air Force Base, the edge of Choctaw and into Stroud, Oklahoma before it finally lifted back up into the air.
It was massive and powerful and some estimate it had the power of a f.6 tornado which had winds over 300 miles per hour. All I remember is there was no grass on the ground, or bark on the trees, or houses even left on the foundations, just concrete stairs going up to nothing.
Walking through the rubble that night to find my mother huddled together with her neighbors at the end of her cul-de-sac, was dangerous. She was okay but finding her was the beginning of a nightmare that lasted weeks. She had survived because she escaped into an interior closet in her bedroom. Her car was totaled, her roof was damaged by a 20 foot steel long bar from the shopping center on the corner of Santa Fe and 12th Street which was demolished that night.
I remember my mom saying her house was gone, but I told her it wasn’t, it was still there, but the houses on the next street were gone, I had just seen the steps left on those. My mother was never the same after that storm, it was the beginning of her decline and one that lasted 10 years until her death. I will always blame the trauma that she went through all alone in that closet with the noise of things breaking all around her.
My mother was a faith-filled woman and she had her bible and her crucifix with her in the closet and she had closed the door. She was also right across from the half-bath in her bedroom. She had closed that door to the half-bath because it had a small window. All of the windows were broken on my mom’s house, glass was blasted into her carpet and furniture and everything had to be replaced. But closing the half-bath door saved my mother’s life. The steel beam that traveled from the garage through the ceiling of the house into my mother’s bedroom, stopped at that half-bath door. Another few inches and she would have been killed.
Many people died that night in the Killer Tornado that hit Oklahoma, but my mother survived. My heart goes out to those who have lost loved ones in the South and their homes. Homes can be rebuilt, but the trauma and the memories will always be there.