(See how you can help at the bottom.) It began when I got simultaneous DM’s, private messages on Skype and my husband’s weather alerts on his telephone began going off. My friends from all over the country had heard of our obscure little town on the news – Atoka, OK was national news with weather advisories being published on every network. I think I’m one of only a handful of people who tweet in the entire county so it’s no wonder my tweetstream was blowing up with warnings.
As we lost power, lost TV and hunkered in the hallway with the kids my phone, and twitter, became a lifeline. Phone calls were nearly impossible to make but tweets and texts got through after a few repeated attempts. As the weather rolled in it went from wind, to small hail stones, to huge hail stones and then the weather shifted again.
We heard the tornado hit and blow past. This video of the tornado was filmed across Highway 3 from where we live – the street we drive by as we go to church on Wednesday nights.
We didn’t see it – it was just behind the treeline from where we are. When the weather shifted and we heard the tornado Sidney and I went back to the hallway with the kids. They thought it was a slumber party – everyone hunkered down on Evan’s mattress that we’d laid out there. I threw a thick heavy comforter over the playpen to protect Adam in case of broken glass.
And then it was over.
Except that it’s not over. Not for hundreds of families who have sustained damage to their homes and vehicles. Not for the dozens of businesses that have been hurt, or in some cases completely leveled, by the furious storm. While a few more lines of storms rolled through that night, none were as fierce. Sidney went to work, and I went to bed.
And in the morning we assessed the full damage.
Highway 3 is the road right by our house. What we heard behind the far treeline was all of this – the tornado sweeping through all of this.
When I saw the flag snagged in the barbs of this fenceline I began to cry. Something so symbolic relegated to mere rubble… it struck a chord in me. After snapping the picture, I took it home.
I don’t know who’s flag it is – but I just couldn’t bear to leave it.
So what now?
This community is truly amazing. When I spoke with the Red Cross emergency relief team at the temporary shelter today they said that none of the several dozen of displaced families had returned to the First Baptist Church overnight shelter last night – friends and family had made room for every. single. person. That’s amazing. That’s our town.
How can you help? If you want to help this community where hundreds of homes and businesses will need to be rebuilt completely, you can make a donation to Tulsa Red Cross. If you mark the check for Tushka and Atoka Victims your donation will go 100% to this area. The address is:Tulsa Area Chapter Red Cross PO Box 995 Tulsa, OK 74182-0001
All photos taken by Angela England – additional photos are on my Atoka Tushka Tornado flickr set.