Each hour, the news of the aftermath of the more-than-mile wide tornado that hit Oklahoma City and its suburbs on Monday afternoon seems to worsen. I am especially thinking about the kids and teachers at Plaza Towers Elementary School and Briarwood Elementary School. The reports I have read tell me that many children were trapped under the rubble at Plaza, well after rescue workers had cut through fallen beams on Monday evening. At Briarwood, cars were thrown through the school and the roof was torn off. I can’t help but think about those kids and their teachers during those moments that this twister came right through their schools.
I grew up in Toledo, Ohio and every year, all the way up into high school, we had tornado drills as soon as the schoolyear started. I heard the city’s tornado sirens growing up in Ohio many, many times. When that rather smallish tornado hit Brooklyn years back, I knew exactly what was going on when the wind picked up and it turned pitch black instantaneously. Most of my neighbors, born and raised in New York, had no idea what had happened as we watched the overturned semi-trucks on the bridge within our view. As a child in Ohio, we were taught how to cover our heads and how to squat under our desks. In the upper levels of my high school, we came to the lowest floor possible and covered ourselves in hallways. Despite all that training (I can only remember a tornado hitting nearby once, not touching us), I would not have been prepared. In elementary school, I used the moment under my desk to make glue fingernails, my favorite pastime when the teacher was not looking (which was often). In high school, I used the drills as a time to have a gossip session with my girlfriend sitting next to me as we delighted in NOT being in class. No tornado drill can prepare you for what might come when that pitch blackness hits you from nowhere and the winds sound like a series of semi-trucks rolling on top of your head. You need storm shelters for that (the tax breaks that oil companies in Oklahoma get could alone pay for such shelters.) That teachers and students, young children at that, survived amazes me. My heart and thoughts go out to them this week!