Day 2: May 21, 2013
You wake up thinking maybe it was just a dream. Then you turn on the television to the news and shortly realize it's not. You get in your car and drive north and realize it's reality. Everything is demolished.
Social media is going haywire with the public reaching out for help as well as giving. The supermarkets and stores are filled with students and locals purchasing as many items as their pockets will allow, for the displaced families. Churches, shelters, and the University of Oklahoma are all opening up, allowing for these families reside.
Limited/no public personnel is yet to commute into Moore, Ok.
May 21, Cont...
Just as I thought the day was winding down I received a phone call from the University's housing department asking if I could volunteer from 8pm to 12am. Being the go-get'em type of girl that I am, I couldn't help but say yes! I made way to the residential halls where I assisted in the food services. As I was cleaning tables and putting away dirty dishes I noticed a familiar face, Charley. I recently just met Charley this past semester, as we shared a class together. He is an older college student that came back to complete his goal of attaining a degree. I wasn't sure if he was there as a victim or as a volunteer but I was on my way to find out.
Unfortunately I soon was informed by him that he was there as a victim of the tornado. My heart tore to shreds as he unraveled his story. He lost everything; house, clothes, memorabilia, all of it gone. Charley explained since they did not have a cellar or basement (like most residents in Oklahoma. Which was shocking to someone from the east coast) they camped out in the storm shelter in his and his family's yard. When the tornado was on top of them Charley and his niece had to physically hold the shelter door down using all of their body weight. Even then the door was still shaking and moving from the harsh winds.
By the end of our conversation, I was emotionally exhausted. Scared for him and his family. Amazed at how a tornado so strong can come out of thin air, literally. Most of all I was happy he was okay. We exchanged numbers and gave a hug. I told him to make sure not to worry that night, to take a night off from stress, he laughed and said he would try.
I'm taking some pots and pans to him today which doesn't seem like much, but to him it's a blessing.
Day 3: May 22, 2013
I almost forgot what day I was on with my blog posts, only to realize day three was just ending. It already feels as if it has been a week or more. It's hard to keep track when there are always things to do at every hour of the day.
Today I woke up early to run a few errands for Charley and his family. I then met up with a few members of the Earth Rebirth organization of OU. Earth Rebirth is an environmental organization that educates the public and university on the environment's issues through numerous programs. Their slogan "Dream big, Act bigger" could not be more appropriate than now with the rebuilding of Moore and the rest of Oklahoma.
With slogan in mind we took our first step. Today was the day; we were getting into Moore. We were determined to get into the heart of the destructed area and get a personal feel of what was going on. Due to many areas still considered hazardous, and other obstacles, we had to drive for what felt forever. What would normally be a 15-20min ride ended up taking over and hour. We ended up parking in the realms of a volunteer setup and walking the rest of the way in. We really had no clear way of getting in but when we did we knew it...
Every thing was deformed. It looked as if someone used a giant cheese grater on all the buildings. It was overwhelming to take in the whole scene. You were looking at it, but it still felt surreal. I was personally at lost for words.. so to help me explain the scene accurately I uploaded some photos below. Because a picture is definitely worth a thousand words.
The Earth Rebirth members are planning to drive into Moore (or as close as we can get) again and begin to take action. If you are not from the area or cannot assist with ER manually please look into donating a relief hygiene kit through Earth Rebirth. Links are posted below to their website and Facebook page that retain more detailed information.
Day 4: May 23, 2013
Today's activities were not physical like the previous two days. Today was more of a research and eduction period to gather thoughts. It started with waking up to a torrential downpour mixed with hail slamming against my apartment window. Not sure exactly how strong the storm was I went and clicked on the television to see what was going on. It was a severe thunderstorm.
To some a severe thunderstorm is not much, because everyone across the states deals with similar weather. What makes the situation different than most is that.. A) Oklahoma terrain does not absorb water like most, considering it is majority made up of red clay, causing flooding. And B) The flood water caused a pause in restoration. What officials are worried about now is molds and a fungus growing within the ruins and people not wearing the proper protective gear while shuffling through it.
Another issue that has been brought to everyone's attention is the possibility of scam artist. The artist are posing as fake volunteer organizations, insurance agencies, and even fake victims. The fake organizations are asking for donations in assistance but then keep all the goods and donations to themselves. Others are dressing and acting as if they are part of an insurance agency when really they have no association with them, causing the families to get jipped. Those posing as fake victims are going into areas taking others donations when they are in no need of assistance. They just want the free stuff. All of which are sickening.
After unraveling the knot in my stomach I got from watching the news, I hopped onto the internet to start looking for places and events to fill up the weekend with. Most people bar-b-Que and have parties for memorial day weekend, but not this girl! With most of the road blocks down opening up in Moore and the rest of the state access to the damage areas have become easier. But what really caught my attention was a tip from the Shawnee area. They are still trying to rescue pets that have been on the loose or trapped in the rubble since Sunday.
As of now it looks like myself and Earth Rebirth will be heading up to Shawnee on Saturday to assist in any way possible. For more detail on that check out their page that's linked in my previous post, and shoot them an email!
That's all I really have for today. Hope to have more pictures posted within the week.
Day 5: May 24, 2013
Five days in and most of the areas are now accessible. Which is great! This now allows for people to get in there with large equipment to remove the larger objects/debris. I didn't stay around Moore today. Instead I went east to Shawnee to scope out the sights there.
I gathered a few addresses that were mentioned throughout the week and plugged them into the GPS. Going along high way nine, everything seemed tranquil and relaxed. It was a typical summer day. Not entirely sure where I was going I listened to the GPS all the way until I hit a road block, patrolled by police. Trying to listen to my inner body compass, I weaved through all the back roads until I smelled something cooking. My first reaction thought it was probably someone grilling at the volunteer sight, just like they were doing in Moore and Newcastle. So I followed the smell. Man, was I wrong.
As I got deeper into Shawnee the roads became dirt and I started to see debris lying around and caught in the trees. The smoke no longer smelled like a bar-b-Que but more of a campfire. I then saw smoke rising and headed straight to it which seems like a silly thing to do. But I wasn't sure if someone was there and needed help, so I went. When I turned the corner one last time I came up on a trailer park, excuse me, I mean the remains of the trailer park. Everyone's vehicles, both volunteer and residents, were parked along side the dirt road. One could definitely tell which automobiles went through the storm from those that did not. Some were still wedged under debris. At that point I had to park and walk the rest of the way in. What I saw next was breath taking or, actually, suffocating.
The smoke I smelt coming in was from the burning remains scattered through out. I'm still unsure if they were intentional or not. There were not any live flames and seemed to be under control. But the smoke was still lingering and the humidity was increasing. Dust was flying from the chainsaws cutting up fallen trees as well as from people rummaging through the rubble. I had to pull my shirt over my mouth and nose, but my eyes were still burning. I did not last long before I had to turn around and head back into my truck, but not without a few shots of the damage..