By Patrick B. McGuigan | CapitolBeatOK
OKLAHOMA CITY — After the storm, both firefighters and residents rode, then ran, to the homes and the schools, launching a search for survivors and a recovery of remains. Accustomed to nature’s fury in spring tornadoes, Oklahomans do their best to ride out the storm, then show up after.
This tornado, designated an F-4 initially but possibly an F-5, dropped from the clouds Monday west of Newcastle, southwest of the city, crossed the Canadian River about 3 p.m., thereafter to plow through the heart of Moore, a community south of the Oklahoma City. It moved pretty much straight East. After doing significant damage to the water treatment plant at Lake Stanley Draper, it lifted back into the skies.
The wide path and lengthy course of the storm make it certain that hundreds and perhaps thousands of homes were destroyed. At least two elementary schools — Plaza Towers and Briarwood — were devastated.
At Plaza Towers, several children were rescued from the rubble and passed along a human chain to the triage area nearby. By nightfall and then overnight, much of the work was focused on recovery at that site.
A Facebook message from a friend listed a picture of a child missing from the Step Above Learning Center at 149th and Western.
In north Oklahoma City, The Chabad Jewish Center established itself as a shelter for families with children, and for the healthy elderly. Rabbi Ovadia Goldman told me the Center was to open Tuesday at 7:45 a.m. to accept non-perishable items, especially water and toiletries. They will work until 10:30 p.m. Tuesday, then start over Wednesday.
The Chabad are in contact with their worldwide network; the local link is www.jewishokc.com/relief
Glenn Beck, of television and radio fame, was nearby when the storm hit. He came to town overnight with two truckloads of supplies, set up shop at First Baptist Church of Moore, and has promised to raise $2 million to help — much as he did after Hurricane Sandy in the East.
The Convoy of Hope, an international relief group based in Springfield, Mo., was on the ground quickly.
The Southern Baptists live here, and they were already on the ground by dusk with what many consider the best private relief operation in the world. The Red Cross and other steady groups were also in place as daylight waned in the western skies.
President Barack Obama and Gov. Mary Fallin spoke before nightfall Monday and he promised federal help. Fallin ordered the National Guard and Highway Patrol into the area as the tornado ripped through Moore. The state has been designated a major disaster area — the counties of Oklahoma, Cleveland, Lincoln, McClain, and Pottawatomie at the core.
Moore has experienced this before. Minor storms hit in 1998 and 2003 and a devastating storm came in 1999. Toby Keith, the popular country music star, Monday night recalled riding his bicycle through those same streets now impassable due to the wood and debris from destroyed homes.
Toby said his hometown would recover. They will.
In the Old Testament Book of Kings, the story is told of the prophet Elijah, taking shelter in a cave at the mountain of Horeb. He receives a message to stand at the mouth of the cave, for “the Lord will be passing by.”
As he stands looking out, there comes “a strong and heavy wind” crushing crocks and rending the mountain; then an earthquake; then fire. That day, God was not in any of those things.
Then, “After the fire there was a tiny whispering sound.” That was the voice of God, asking the man, “why are you here?” (1 Kings 19: 9-13)
After the storm, it is natural to wonder, why are we here? Why were we spared and others taken? What can we do now?
This is the time of the tiny whispering sound in the midst of chaos and confusion, the voice of comfort, and support for places of solace. We best serve when we serve one another, assisting with both practical provisions and spiritual petitions to Heaven — for comfort and security, listening to memories, offering the balm of touch, and the eloquence of presence.
Contact Patrick B. McGuigan, Oklahoma City bureau chief for the Watchdog.org network, at Patrick@capitolbeatok.com and follow us on Twitter: @capitolbeatok.