“Oklahoma, where the wind comes sweepin’ down the plain ...”
The wind Oscar Hammerstein II had in mind when he wrote those epic lyrics wasn’t “sweepin’ down the plain” at nearly 200 miles per hour.
But Monday’s horrific natural disaster in several suburban communities near Oklahoma City did. Conflicting reports assessed the massive tornado at half a mile to two miles wide.
That awesome force of fury destroyed hundreds of homes and killed dozens of people, with much of the damage inflicted in the city of Moore.
However, the chaotic conditions the storm left in its monstrous wake made it difficult to count the dead.
The wrenching television images of adults struggling to find surviving children amid what was left of an utterly devastated elementary school were hard for viewers to watch.
The drowning of seven children rushed to the supposed safety of that school’s basement was a jarring reminder that even the best efforts can yield dreadful results.
But for those of us watching from afar, the toughest — and most heartbreaking — challenge of all is wrestling with variations on this painfully familiar question:
Why those places, including Moore, which suffered a similarly cruel blow 14 years ago?
Why them and not us?
President Barack Obama put it well Tuesday at the White House when he delivered this message to Oklahomans:
“Our gratitude is with the teachers who gave their all to shield their children; with the neighbors, first responders, and emergency personnel who raced to help as soon as the tornado passed; and with all of those who, as darkness fell, searched for survivors through the night. As a nation, our full focus right now is on the urgent work of rescue, and the hard work of recovery and rebuilding that lies ahead.”
And the authorities will work on how to save more lives the next time a tornado roars through Oklahoma or South Carolina or anywhere else.
But as Oklahomans — and all Americans — ponder both the down-to-earth lessons and the bewildering mysteries of Monday’s tragedy, you can be sure of this: There are tangible ways to help those tornado survivors rise from the rubble and start anew.
You can donate $10 to the American Red Cross by texting the word REDCROSS to 90999. You also can make donations at www.redcross.org.
You can donate to the Salvation Army Disaster Relief, specifying your contribution to “Oklahoma Tornado Relief,” at donate.salvationarmyusa.org/uss/eds/aok.
And you can hold a good thought — and pray — for the good folks now struggling through such a bad time in the Sooner State.