Today at 2:45pm my daughter called to tell me her after-school program was cancelled and asked if she could walk home. After I agreed and hung up, the first sirens went off. My kids and their classmates were ushered into the hallway and told to line the halls, crouch down and keep their hands over their head - the usual drill. Once I realized what was going on, I called the school and told them not to let them walk but they were already released. I drove to the school as it began to hail and the second sirens went off. I could see the kids panic and start running toward home. I honked, got the kids in the car and drove to my mom’s to watch the news. I complained that they should reserve the sirens for times that we actually need to be in our safe places. Kavi and Briam told me how proud they were to not cry like the other kids or like they had two years ago. I told them they were really becoming Okies.
Yesterday, during the Pride Parade, the severe weather sirens went off three times. We just kept marching with our rainbow flags. We were drenched and smiling, finishing the parade just as the sun fought through the clouds. We felt like champions. Okie Pride means not being afraid of sirens. It means standing on your porch looking for a funnel.
Ten minutes south of us, in Moore, students were not released. The parents could not get to them. The whole town is leveled. Kids were buried under concrete slabs. Kids drowned under their school. Teachers huddled over them. Some survived, bloody and battered, stumbled home to find they had no home. People who were in their storm shelters had the doors blown off. Some were sucked from under the ground. The cell towers were down. We can’t call our loved ones. The news can’t get any accurate information. I-35 is shut down. We don’t know what to do. The sky is glowing grey. Air smells eerie wet. Ambulances sirens everywhere. Thousands of people emerge and walk dazed on the highway to find shelter.
In the kitchen, I can’t pull away from the television. I begin to sob, holding my children so tight they are uncomfortable. My daughter says, “But Mom, we’re alive, and we’re Okies. It’s okay.”
I kiss her confused sweet face, “You are right, baby. But some kids are not alive. They are Okies too.”
We leave the television to go play cards and take deep breaths. I tell them it’s okay to be sad and still do stuff. We can be sad and still laugh at Grandpa’s bad jokes. We can cry at dinner and wait until we are told how we can help. Part of being human is learning how to grieve and how to get to work in the thick of it.
My children and I are safe in our beds. I have walls and photographs and electricity and water. I can’t sleep. I keep seeing the faces of survivors covered in bloody debris. I see my children running scared in the hail or huddled in the hall way. How do we ever think huddling with hands over heads in a damn hallway will save them? I am so tired of breaking news and devastation and trauma. I am angry at people who joke on the internet that this is red state punishment or call Oklahomans stupid. I am too tired to be angry. So grateful to be alive. I will rest now. Tomorrow we will get to work.