Dear friends in Oklahoma: Hope will find you
In Alabama, we have an idea of what you are going through in the Oklahoma community of Moore. We continue to recover from the tornado that destroyed much of our city, Tuscaloosa, in 2011. If there's one thing we learned, it's that hope will find you, even when you can't find it.
Dear friends in the Oklahoma community of Moore: Here in Tuscaloosa, Ala., our hearts are breaking for you. We have an idea of what you are going through, as we continue to recover from the mile-wide tornado that took 53 lives and destroyed much of our city on April 27, 2011.Skip to next paragraph
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Ketchup is what ultimately brought me to tears following our tornado. After days of holding back emotion and being strong for my child, I stood in what was left of my historic neighborhood, sifting through rubble, glass, and insulation at my home, which had been severely damaged.
The Red Cross came by handing out hot food. I got a hamburger – the gift of a hamburger. (You might find that everything now feels like a gift.) A friend made her slow way through the debris to my house from another part of town that was not hit by the tornado. “What can I bring you?” she texted. “Water? Food? Clothes?”
“Ketchup,” I texted back. I wanted ketchup with my burger, but on barren, charred land with ruins all around me, ketchup seemed unattainable.
When she arrived with ketchup, I wept. I was overwhelmed that something so simple was now a luxury – and that I was alive to enjoy it. Just beyond my backyard, people had died. How surreal the entire experience was.
In the coming days, Moore will not want for toothbrushes, clothes, and toilet paper. Necessities will be in full supply thanks to aid organizations and the goodness and kindness of strangers. But somewhere down the road something simple will bring you to tears, and you will realize, like we have, that hope exists. You might not be able to see it, but if there is one thing we learned in Tuscaloosa, it’s that hope will find you.
Like Tuscaloosa, Moore lost major infrastructure and schools. And, like what Tuscaloosa Mayor Walt Maddox told me yesterday, “The sober reality of what is in front of them is massive.” But, he added, it can be done. We have proof.
Our tornado, like yours, struck in the late afternoon on a work day. It reached winds of nearly 200 mph. More than 5,000 structures were destroyed in our city. People flocked to help. The city, Mayor Maddox admits, was not prepared for the massive influx of volunteers. Organizing volunteers is a huge undertaking. Coordination is key. It’s a good problem to have, but logistically difficult and not to be underestimated.