I still cannot get used to having natural disasters happen right in front of my eyes in real time on my TV. On Monday, May 20th, we watched a tornado approach an intact town, Moore, Oklahoma. We watched as the storm chasers in the helicopter focused on storm clouds. We watched a powerful tornado whirl out of those clouds and tear across the earth towards that little town, Moore, Oklahoma. That throbbing up-elevator of air was inescapable, totally unstoppable, and it was impossible to predict what its exact path would be. A tornado is a fearsome thing, made from wind and air and pressure and that helicopter showed us the true nature of the beast as it ripped and snarled its way through the sturdy modern homes made by humans who understand the beast, even if we cannot control it.
Even as we watched, the people in this small town were told to seek shelter. They were told that an interior room was not secure enough. They were told to find a storm shelter built under the earth. As they huddled wherever they felt somewhat safe, we watched the tornado pass over Moore. We could not see the town or the huddled people but we tasted the fear they must be feeling; we tried to picture where we would seek refuge if that was our town, our house, our school, or our mall. We could see the image of the muscular tornado coming to us from the cameras on the helicopter. We were informed about the debris field. We held our breath. It didn’t take long. We saw the tornado turn into a narrow rope that climbed from the earth to the sky and we were told that the tornado had “roped out”. It was gone almost as quickly as it had formed.
And then we followed the cameras into Moore, Oklahoma and we could not believe what the cameras captured. A huge swath of Moore was gone. A long narrow path of buildings throughout the town had been taken apart like a set of Tinkertoys. The cameras almost immediately located the elementary school and we learned, from an understandably emotional local newsperson, that the school had been destroyed. That meant that children might be injured or dead. We waited with the residents for the death toll (24), for the stories that people who lived through the tornado had to tell, and we knew that we could not experience the way the post-tornado air felt, or the anguish of parents as they waited to be reunited with their children, or the realization that there was no home to go home to.
In the aftermath of the storm, when all that is left is picking up the pieces, we become bystanders again. We become bystanders who wish we could reach through our TV’s and put everything back in its rightful place and bring all those who lost their lives back to the arms of their loved ones. All we can do now is pray and contribute to the Red Cross, but at least this is something. Despite all of the progress mankind has made, extreme weather leaves us almost as helpless as primitive man.