Picking up the pieces at a trailer park, ’70s-style.
In the Spring of 1975, a tornado tore part of the roof off of my elementary school as I, along with several classmates, our teacher, and a man and his daughter, sheltered in the boys' bathroom. It was an especially hot day that day–I had worn my new sandals and a pair of shorts to school–and my classmates and I had stayed after school for a special activity. Before the activity, we were playing outside and I recall having a Dr. Seuss book with me. It was bright and sunny and then almost instantly the sky went green and unusually large rain drops started falling, leaving large wet spots on the book. I remember thinking that allowing a school book to be damaged was definitely not okay.
I don't think the tornado siren sounded, but we knew what that green sky and large rain drops meant so we ran inside, our teacher rushed us into the boys' bathroom and had us hunker down around one of those large old gang hand-washing sinks. I don't remember feeling afraid, but I do remember the man and his daughter coming into the bathroom–their pick-up had crashed into the school and the girl's thighs were cut up–and, more significantly, I remember being scandalized by the fact that there were girls in the boys' bathroom. (This, of course, was decades before extremist moral relativism had been normalized.) I remember hearing extremely loud wind banging, smashing, and crushing, but I don't remember hearing the stereotypical "freight train" sound.
After what seemed like a very long time, the wind died down and we emerged from the bathroom. In my sandals, I walked over broken glass through the halls out the front door of the school. Many people were out in the parking lot including what we used to call "firemen", but now are required to call "first responders", and my mom, who quickly grabbed me and brought me home where my dad was hosing leaves off of the back of the house. Family legend has it that the tornado hopped over our house, though in hindsight it seems unlikely.
Every time I see this picture on the news, I remember that day and I try to recall how I felt. Everything was so bizarre, happened so fast, and was, quite frankly, so exciting that I have to wonder if I was afraid at all. I wonder if the kid in that image was afraid. He looks traumatized and tired, of course, but he survived and he's going to have one Hell of a story to tell his friends.
Thankfully, the tornado I was in killed no one. It was a baby tornado whose speed was a mere 100 miles per hour. Things in Moore, OK, though, look exceedingly grim as time passes and we can hope that the children who took refuge in that hallway in Plaza Tower Elementary survived somehow. We don't even know those kids' fates yet, but the recriminations are already coming out. "The school should have had a strom shelter," I hear, yet that hallway was supposed to have had reinforced walls so that it could act as a shelter. Some idiot politician named Whitehouse (see also: Dan's post) is trying to blame Globull Warming, and thus conservatives. If he wants to place the blame for the death and destruction perpetrated by a tornado on the Great Plains (we should assume he's never seen The Wizard of Oz) on people, he may as well blame sprawl.
For those on the southern and eastern coasts who shake their heads, ask why everyone living on the Plains isn't required to have a basement and/or storm shelter, and want to take Tom Coburn to task right now, try to remember the word "hurricane". I know that I shook my head when I heard that we were going to spend hundreds of billions of dollars to rebuild a city situated between a large lake and a large river in a part of the country where massive, damaging hurricanes strike with semi-predictable regularity and I was particularly appalled that we would be rebuilding for a population who take a perverse pride in the kind of local and state level political corruption which greatly exacerbated the damage caused by Katrina.
But remember that everyone has to live somewhere and they have to do so within their means. Not everyone can afford a storm shelter that can withstand a 200 mile per hour tornado which sits on the ground and grinds away at everything in its path, nor is there a magical Keynesian money tree which will allow the federal government to buy one for everyone. As with New Orleans and the New Jersey coast, all we can do is rebuild as best we can with the resources we have with the hope that our best will preserve as many lives as possible in the future.
About the only silver lining to this terrible story is that, unlike me and my classmates, the people of Moore, OK, were warned that they were in the path of a tornado and every year, as meteorological science advances (thanks in no small part to people like this crazy bastard), warning time increases. Look at images of the path of the Moore, OK, tornado and ground damage and try to imagine how much larger the death toll would be if people had been caught outside with no warning.
OMFG: it's only been a matter of minutes since I posted this and now I see that the Internet's douche-in-residence is trying to pin the tornado on Republicans via the tired sequester argument.
MUST READ: Jeff's rant.
To Sheldon Whitehouse, he says:
If you wish to cast around for blame, you might wish to start with the very earth and its atmosphere that you pretend your political party alone wishes to protect: because evidently, despite all your posing and hubris, she doesn’t much give a shit, and she goes along doing her thing just as she’s always done. And in the end, she’ll swallow you up in dirt and let the worms crawl through you, too.
To which I would like to add that Gaia has both broiled and frozen herself solid (several times) and she's come through just fine. It's likely that life made it through those periods, also.
And, finally, an on-target sack-tapping of David Sirota:
As with everything in your despicable, self-important, self-aggrandizing life, Mr Sirota, this casual conjoining of the deaths in Oklahoma to a political decision to cut something, anything — all so that you can wave the bloody shirts in the hopes of shaming people into agreeing to spend well beyond their means, all so you can pretend that you are more “compassionate” than the adults who understand that economics doesn’t succumb to the leftist desire to create reality from will and manufactured consent — is what defines people like you: you are petty, opportunistic, shameless. You are a social parasite who cynically makes his living off the essential goodness of the American people, preying as you do upon their readiness to feel guilt, to believe that if they had only done something (and you’ll be there to tell them what that is, be it pay more in taxes, build more bullet trains, fund more Solyndras, provide more taxpayer money for grants given to those looking to deligitimate the very system that makes their comfortable livings possible), no one in OK would have died, that the earth would have bent to your will and technocratic genius, that the tornadoes wouldn’t have stood a chance against your collectivist social engineering schemes.
You are a charlatan. And a loudmouthed punk who stages his outrages for maximum exposure.
I'm going to stray from topic a little, but this is related to a point I was alluding to above.
This kind of stuff bugs the ever-loving shit out of me. Not that it is bad advice or that it is not relevant, but that every time there's a disaster it's tossed around in the same way that every other piece of self-serving preaching in our victim culture is. As I stated above, I went through a tornado as a small child and I wasn't even scared (I went so far as to go out of my way to confirm that with my mother last night). If my mom had gotten all touchy-feely with me about it, that would have freaked me out. I would have felt obligated to act–and maybe even actually feel–traumatized.
If your kid goes through something like that, don't immediately treat them as though they're delicate flowers just because you are freaked out. You're not doing him or her any favors. If it does so happen that they display unusual behavior (acting out, bed-wetting, etc) then feel free to get all maternal and touchy-feely.