It was noon; I was hungry. The day before, I sat in front of my computer as LiveStream broadcast live screaming footage of tornadoes tearing through my home state. One of them passed within a half mile of my childhood home; I sat there in dismay as my dreams of repurchasing it and creating my artist’s retreat seemed on the verge of being literally blown away. Thankfully, the moment passed, and life resumed to its seemed normalcy.
Back to yesterday. I went downstairs to assemble lunch, and padded back to my desk. I remembered that there was a prognostication of severe weather, and so, having discovered LiveStream some time ago, decided to check in.
And so it began. I watched in mute horror as a wall cloud dropped, then formed into a medium-sized tornado. Another vortex joined it, and within minutes, it was a monster storm, with a debris cloud 2 1/4 miles wide. It churned across the land, relentless, without compassion, almost biblical in proportion. I am not religious, and yet, all I could think of was the moment in Raiders of the Lost Ark when Marcus speaks of the lost city of Tanus, after the ark of the covenant had been placed there, enraging the deity. “Wiped clean by the wrath of God,” he said.
As in separation, there are degrees of disaster. The first degree is comprised of those who are on the ground, those who experience the event first-hand. The effects of a disaster – whether natural or man-made – are akin to the rings in water when a pebble is dropped into a pond. The first ring appears, then the second, then the third… eventually, the entire pond is a surface of ripples. Throughout the day and night, through Facebook and Twitter and text messaging, I heard from those who were there. A missing child, a missing spouse, neighbors killed, pets vanishing into the thin air… grandparents. Parents. Friends. Co-workers. Lives altered irrevocably in an instant. I felt helpless; there was nothing I could do for people who I knew and loved.
Then, the memes began to appear across social media. My favorite – Keep Calm and Okie On.
We are all ripples in the pond. I could take this meme, and replace the Oklahoma blue with that of a different locale. Okie could become Boston. Or Newton, New York, San Diego, Syria, Darfur, Sri Lanka, Japan, Banda Aceh, Afghanistan, Iraq… for in crisis, we humans are are ultimately defined by our courage in the face of danger and tragedy, not by where we live. Within these great testing moments, many show resilience, compassion and strength. To the people of my home state, I send you light. To the families in the West Bank, I grieve for your pain and your loss. I pray for peace. To the people of Syria, I mourn for your unspeakable suffering. To those in Afghanistan and Iraq, I promise that you are not forgotten. To all of those around the world, faced day in and day out with death, anguish, despair and pain, my heart aches for you. I pray that your suffering will cease, and then, I pray for you to tread the paths of love, forgiveness, and compassion.
In the midst of such wretchedness is beauty. Signe Olynyk and the people at the Great American Pitchfest have graciously allowed a group of the displaced Okies in H’wood to set up a collection center at their event for donations for OK, May 31 – June 2 at the Burbank Marriott. Monetary donations can be made to the Red Cross by texting REDCROSS to 90999. However, in a couple of weeks, physical resources will be running low. People will need hygiene kits, diapers, toys. Pets will need food, litter, and therapeutic supplies. My friend Justin Baker (@acts4food) is helping me to coordinate volunteer help to man the donation area, to record each donation and help send it on its way. We need assistance finding a pro-bono shipper and shipping materials. We need help spreading the word. If you would like to volunteer for this event – or help to create another – please email me at princessscribe [at] gmail dot com, or complete this form at the end of this post.
Social media has been filled with messages of light, hope and love to the people of Oklahoma. There’s also been those who have gone to the dark side – from Coburn’s shameless politicizing of the event, to Winstead’s egregious jokes about conservatives deserving nature’s wrath (I am a steadfast liberal), to the Floridian armchair quarterback troll, laying self-righteous judgement on those still reeling with shock and loss. There is time for discovery and blame. Now is not that time.
People have also pointed out that what happened yesterday in Moore happens each and every day around the globe. Earthquakes, building collapses, famine, genocide, acts of war – the daily toll is unimaginable. And yet, tragedy is not a competitive sport. My loss is no greater or less than yours, for we share one thing. We are human. We are ripples in the same pond. We are all connected.
Now, go write. I’m going to. That’s all I can think of to do.
HRH, Princess Scribe