Standing against big government and for the people!
May 3,1999 - Moore, Oklahoma
We had been in business meetings all day and I was exhausted. I had just laid down to rest before starting to prepare dinner while Jake was working on another book he was writing about the New Millennium 2000, "Champagne Apocalypse".
I had just dozed off when the phone rang and it was our radio engineers warning us, "Get out NOW ... there are killer tornadoes heading your way!"
"What?" I was in shock. I ran into the living room and told Jake we had to get out of there. For some reason he didn't want to believe me, "Aw, it won't hit us here."
Not taking his dismissal seriously, I started packing up the important things I wanted to take with me. Naturally I grabbed my hair rollers and makeup bag (you ladies will certainly understand this ... we must look good, no matter what, for our hubbies). I also packed everything we might need for our little Havanese puppy, Dustmop, grabbed Poppa's Bible and what I did next, I will never understand ...while Jake was grabbing a few personal items, I straightened the kitchen.
Out the door we went. FINALLY. It had already started hailing large balls of ice by the time we got in the car. It was amazing how quickly the weather had changed. On the drive home that late afternoon the skies were the most beautiful blue and there were only a few clouds in the sky. I remember thinking while lying back in the car seat and looking out the front windshield how pretty the clouds looked. Little did I know what was building behind those white, fluffy, puffs of cotton in the sky. Now the skies were an eerie gray and darkness was all around us.
Where to go? We had no idea. Where were emergency shelters? Again, absolutely no clue. We remembered our engineers had stated the tornadoes had come out of the southwest, so we figured if we headed in the direction they had already come from that would be a pretty safe guess.
We ended up at the Ramada Inn and were sitting in the lounge watching the televisions as the tornadoes swept away every last possession we had on the face of the earth. We sat there in stunned amazement realizing the devastation that had just taken place, not just of worldly possessions, but of human lives.
The stories started coming across the television of how a mother had her ten month old baby ripped from her arms. She frantically sought a policeman's help. Deputy Robert Jolley found then 10-month-old Aleah Crago in the mud and they found the baby alive, face down in the mud!
Aleah Crago is now 13 years old.
As we watched these events we held each other close and cuddled our little Dustmop, giving thanks to our Lord for His protection and for sending us a warning to leave.
So many from our apartment complex did not escape the viciousness of that storm. Fourteen of the total number killed lived in our apartment complex. It was at least five days before the police would allow us to go back to what once was our home. Nothing was left. NOTHING! The tornadoes had even taken away the streets and it was extremely difficult to try and discern where our apartment once stood. This is the first time the realization finally set in. I just sat down and cried.
The first clue I had as to where to find our former home came when I saw a man standing beside a black pickup truck and recognized Jake's bathrobe draped over what turned out to be my new vacuum cleaner. I went over and pulled Jake away from where he was talking with some of the other neighbors who were also trying to find their homes. "I think I found it," was all I said until I could pull him aside.
I then told him what I had just seen and then he told the rest of the neighbors and together we all went over to confront the man. He was there for there the sole purpose of stealing whatever he could find in the debris. He said he was there to help his step-daughter with her things, but there was no step-daughter there. One of the neighbors said he was calling the police and in the meanwhile, we all started going through his truck to collect our few possessions in life that had not been blown away or utterly destroyed in the storm. Yep, there are some real scum bags on this earth! He was at the top of my list.
Searching through the piles of rubble we found a couple more items, including my Chicago Bears t-shirt. Believe it or not, it had survived with just a little tear on the upper front corner near the neck. I remember chuckling thinking it was almost symbolic of how the Bears were playing football at that time. I kept that shirt as a reminder of the storm and how thankful we need to be for each and every second we have of life and how fleeting and fast it can all be gone!
Now, where do you go from here? We had no family in Oklahoma and the only folks we knew here were our engineers. We were unable to immediately find another apartment due to the vast number of homeless tornado victims so we stayed on at the Ramada, with the help of my parents, while we continued to search for a new home.
The days ahead taught me the lessons of how amazingly wonderful the good folks in Oklahoma are. No matter where they lived, if you were in Oklahoma, you were their neighbor. They gave generously of their time and possessions through various groups.
The First Baptist Church in Moore was the first to open their doors and set up their entire church as an emergency shelter for folks. Then they organized the various rooms so that all of the donated items could be sorted. Our engineers called us and told us to meet them at the church because they would help us get some of the items we would need for the days that lied ahead.
[Volunteers unload relief supplies at the First Baptist Church of Moore, Okla. (Brett Deering / AFP/Getty Images / May 23, 2013)]
Folks, it is so hard to understand how you feel when EVERYTHING is gone. We had little money and what we had was in the drawer at the apartment and I had not purchased renters insurance. We were too busy trying to reorganize our lives and readjusted to being back in the states after just having gone through Hurricane Mitch in Honduras the last week of October and first week of November, 1998.
It was a very humbling experience having to ask for help, but the woman who met us at the door helped make us feel welcome when she greeted us, total strangers, with a big hug and tears in her eyes. She led us to a shopping cart and escorted us around the church so we could pick up some items we would need. I remember how shocked I was when we went into the sanctuary and saw that every pew had piles of clothes stacked high and arranged neatly sized for the women, men and children. It was unbelievable!
This lady, oh how I wish I could remember her name, seemed like an angel to me that day. As we went through the church and I would pick up a couple of things, she would say, "Honey, you need to take more because you will need it later on." I did not realize how prophetic her words would be at that time, but months later I remembered what she had somehow foreseen as we were able to share what we received from the donations with others who were homeless and living on the streets in Dallas Texas. We were able to pass on God's love that He showed us in Moore, Oklahoma to these Vietnam vets who felt unloved and unwanted. You see, something good did come out of that disaster!
Then there were the dear saints with churches, just to mention a couple of the many, such as Seven Day Adventists, First Christian Church of Moore, who opened their doors for assistance. I must also mention the Salvation Army who participated in a gigantic way by setting up a grocery store in a vacated shopping center space. In order to go shopping, you had to present your identification card, which we had just received from the Red Cross.
It took over a week before the Red Cross was organized and "helping". When they finally made their grand appearance and went on television from their temporary station at the First Baptist Church in Moore stating how they had organized the relief efforts, the pastor at the First Baptist Church in Moore rightfully gave them the boot and they had to find another place to set up shop. However, they did organize the victims by verifying who truly had been affected by the storm by issuing identification cards, vouchers and then telling us where to go for additional assistance. The federal government helped by paying for one month's utilities in our new apartment they helped us locate. The only problem was, the apartment was only going to be available for 90 days and then we would have to relocate, which is how we ended up in Dallas.
I also want to mention that Mathis Brothers graciously donated entire rooms of furniture for the tornado victims. Seven years later we moved back to Oklahoma (and not without a strong protest on my part) and we made it a point to furnished our home entirely from Mathis Brothers and their affiliates as our way of saying "Thank You" and returning the kindness they had shown us and so many other tornado victims.
I want to state for the record ... the real thanks goes to the people of Oklahoma. They are true Americans and patriots.
Now, once again, they have been the first Responders after this latest killer tornado, again in May and once again striking Moore, Oklahoma. I just learned that the little niece of one of my Facebook friends was killed in the tornado. I would ask that you please remember this family in your prayers.
Hey guys, I know I don't come around much. But my family and I need prayers! My beautiful niece Antonia Candelaria died during the tornado on May 20, 2013. She was only nine years old. Please send prayers our way...thank you.
If you would like to do something to help, here is some information. Also, please watch our founder of PAN, Steve Elliott, and his message concerning the storm.
Contributions to the Moore & Shawnee Tornado Relief Fund can be made securely online at www.TulsaCF.org. Donations can also be mailed to TCF offices at 7030 S. Yale, Suite 600, Tulsa, OK, 74136.
If you would like to donate items, the most-needed food items are Gatorade (and similar drinks); healthy ready-to-eat, individual serving snacks, such as granola bars and cereal bars; and ready-to-serve pop-top canned foods, such as Vienna sausages. We ask that you drop off items at one of the locations listed below. If you know of another business or church acting as a drop site for food and other disaster relief items, please email firstname.lastname@example.org so they can be added to this list.
Mathis Brothers Furniture (OKC)
First Baptist Church Moore (Moore)
All OKC and Tulsa LifeChurch.TV locations (OKC & Tulsa)
Eagle Heights Church (OKC)
Riverwind Casino (Norman)
Saltcreek Casino (Pocasset)
St. Andrew’s United Methodist Church (OKC)
Luther Town Hall (Luther, OK)
Brendle Corners (Little Axe)
Newcastle Storm Shelter (Newcastle)
Oakcrest Church of Christ (OKC)
Eastside Church of Christ (OKC)
Northeast Church of Christ (OKC)
Memorial Road Church of Christ (Edmond)
Harvest Church (Norman)
One Church (Moore)
Penn Square Mall (OKC)
No Greater Love Kingdom Center Church (OKC) – beginning 5/25
Penn Square Mall, operated by Simon Property Group, is accepting relief drop-off needs as well. Penn Square Mall is at the intersection of NW Expressway and Pennsylvania Ave. in Oklahoma City.
Bob Moore Dealerships are accepting cash and gift card donations for The Salvation Army at all their locations. Click here for all Bob Moore locations.
How to register your storm shelter so crews can know to look for you after a disaster: http://okc.gov/action/stormshelter/
Lost animals: If you find displaced animals, you can take them to the Animal Resource Center at 7949 S. I-35 Service Rd. (405) 604-2892. They are also offering displaced people shelter for the night as well.
Animal aid: The Pet Food Pantry of OKC is offering dog food, cat food, leashes, collars, food bowls, etc to those in need. (405) 664-2858 www.petfoodpantryokc.org
Donation and Distribution sites for tornado relief in Shawnee, Bethel Acres, Dale, Little Axe
Shawnee Expo Center, 1700 W. Independence (405-275-7020)
Blackburn Baptist Church - located 5 miles west of Shawnee on Lake Rd in Bethel Acres. From I-40, take the Hwy 102 South Exit (which is the Dale / Bethel Acres Exit), go south on Hwy 102 to Lake Rd. Turn left on Lake Rd. & go 2 1/4 miles & the church is located on the south side of the road. (4052-273-6763)
Dale Public Schools – 300 Smith Avenue (405-964-5514; Elementary Office)
Bethel Acres Community Center / Fire Department – (405-275-6555)
Other facilities open to tornado victims:
University of Oklahoma – student housing (Norman)
Oklahoma Baptist University – student housing (Shawnee)
Graceway Baptist Church, located at 1100 S.W. 104th in Oklahoma City.
Oakcrest Church of Christ at 1111 S.W. 89th Street in Moore.
Victory Church, located 4300 North MacArthur in Oklahoma City.
Journey Church in Norman I-35 and Tecumseh Road is open as a shelter.
Fifth Street Missionary Baptist Church, located at 801 N.E. 5th St. Oklahoma City.
St. Andrews Church, located at S.W. 119th and May.
Trinity Church of the Nazarene is open as an emergency shelter. It is located at 7301 S. Walker, just on the north side of I-240.