Oklahoma has been seriously rocking and rolling the last few weeks as a plague of terror inducing weather has repeatedly swarmed through the state, causing death, destruction and tremendous loss both materially and emotionally. Families have been devastated by the loss of loved ones as well as their properties. Cities that had closed their public tornado shelters, because of the pressures on them to meet the expensive standards set out by FEMA have been shocked at the loss of life, property and infrastructure. Once well-manicured streets became nightmarish piles of rubbish as families and friends sifted, ever so gingerly, through each broken board, shattered piece of sheet rock and piles of roofing shingles and debris, hoping to find one small symbol of the lives that once were.
We held our breath and wiped tears as miles of Patriot Guard Riders – bikers on huge, thundering Harley Davidsons – escorted funeral hearses away from churches on the long, lonely drive to the cemeteries and a final place of resting for those who didn’t make it through the storm. Not only did they escort the fallen neighbors and friends, they stood guard, keeping the insanely stupid demonstrators who were clamoring that “God hates Oklahoma because of homosexuality…” away from the deeply grieved families. And, in some cases, those same Riders had to stand between the bereaved and the media, to keep intrusive microphones and cameras out of the faces of those who’ve lost so much.
We’ve watched and we’ve wept with those families.
Our governor, Mary Fallin, orchestrated and emceed a beautiful memorial service for those who lost loved ones as well as their families. Streaming from a large Baptist Church in the broken city of Moore, Oklahoma, we watched the service as Governor Fallin, church and synagogue leaders, community leaders and children talked and sang of their faith. In the audience were those who helped save the lives of so many children. One broken teacher, in a neck brace and carefully comforted by her husband, sat stunned as they listened to the memorial and were encouraged by God’s amazing grace as exemplified that night.
Out of the brokenness, there is hope.
People have come from across the United States and around the world to help. Foreign countries that have been the recipient of our help – that of America – so many times, were now paying it forward as they sent food, money, prayers and emissaries. Side by side those who’ve come to help have brought with them comfort, organization, good cheer, and their faith. They have brought hope to those who’ve been so badly broken.
It has only been two weeks, but it’s been a lifetime. We’ve experienced more tornadoes, more loss of life and limb, and more loss of property in those two weeks than anyone can imagine. We’ve gone from a land ravished by drought to flash flooding and I couldn’t help but wonder, in the excessive rains, if God was crying tears with us. For now, the storms have stopped and very brave first-responders, along with average citizens, are wondering through dense forests and muddy, slippery river banks, looking for those who’ve not yet been recovered. We pray that all who have been lost will soon be found and their families will be able to get a small bit of closure as they, too, sort through the brokenness of their lives.
It has been hard on these families, on the cities and towns, and on the leadership. There is no way of explaining what has happened – there is nothing that can be said other than, “I’m sorry, so sorry.” A hug will have to do where no band aid will fit.
Out of the brokenness will arise a newer, stronger people who’ve been tried and tested in the fires of hell and have passed. In time, with God’s help, they will overcome, they will rebuild their lives as best as possible, and they will remember…this terror, this comfort of strangers, this love extended from around the world.
Carney, Shawnee, Bethel Acres, Tecumseh, Moore, El Reno, and Union City, Oklahoma will become stories in the annals of the Weather Channel as they share their losses. Stories will be told again and again, starting with, “where were you,” or “I was on my way…” just as they have been told about that faithful day of 9/11/01. Terror has struck and, once again, out of the brokenness has come a need to look heavenward and to know, that with God’s help, all things are possible. We trust in that.