“And where are you from?” Even two years after, I grimace before I respond. It used to be I would say I grew up outside of Joplin, MO, and people would give me that blank look of non-recognition, and I would then jump into my diatribe about Southwest Missouri and the Four State area and the Ozarks and eventually end up tying it to Branson, about 80 miles away. After May 22, 2011, I got the low, breathy, drawn-out, “Ohhh.”
This is usually followed by some variation of, “How many people did you know that died?” Mostly, those questions are phrased carefully and are often vague, but the intent is the same—did I know anyone who died?
The answer is yes, but the part I am so terribly thankful for is that my family and friends were not among the casualties. I know many more that were not so lucky.
So, I guess you can imagine when I read Jennifer Rowe Walter’s post yesterday evening, her words resonated with me in more ways than you can imagine. We played Twister, too. We are armchair meteorologists, too. We knew which friends had basements and which ones had storm cellars and which ones had crawlspaces, too. Tornados were an everyday part of life. And when she said:
“Going forward, this event will probably come to define us to people who have no other frame of reference for us. Oklahoma will forever equal “that terrible tornado” in the minds of people who will probably never come here or really know any of us personally.”
I knew exactly what she meant by that simple statement.
But– and this is a big but– let me tell you Okies something. The storm will not define you for long. The destruction will not always be the mental image that presents itself when people think of Moore. It will be that way for the immediate future—for the first few years– but it will fade. It can and will be replaced with the images of a resilient people, with rebirth and rebuilding; it will come to represent heroism and compassion and community and what it means to be a human being who has faced adversity. It will come; it has to come. It is this way—has to be this way– for New Orleans, for the Jersey Shore, for Joplin, and now… for you.
Moore, Oklahoma (and all the surrounding communities who are helping)—you are in our hearts. You are in our thoughts. The storm is all we see now—but we will see more and more of YOU with each day that passes.