Photo by: Henoc Kivuye
For most, 16 minutes passes in the blink of an eye. They do not even notice the hands moving on the clock. For a few, those brief ticks can last an eternity. They can be the difference between life and death. They can be a lost home; a broken family; a disaster.
Four months ago, residents of Moore, Okla. and the surrounding areas had 16 minutes to seek refuge before the town was ripped apart by a devastating tornado.
Senior Kristin Wallace experienced the storm firsthand from her home in Moore.
“It was really loud when the tornado went over; it didn’t last long but it was really scary,” Wallace said. “Then the older adults went out while me and my sister held the little girls to help them stop crying.”
Wallace’s family, along with several of her neighbors, hid in their backyard storm shelter for the duration of the tornado.
“I was just trying to keep from having a panic attack,” Wallace said.
Wallace’s home was one of the many that were damaged beyond repair.
“We had to get out and I found my room and looked for stuff I could take with me that day with bags we found,” Wallace said. “There was a gas leak so we had to leave…we made our way very slowly to the nearest church and waited for my dad to get there with the one car we had left.”
Wallace, like many other Moore residents, needed to find a place offering shelter for her family.
“When he finally got there, which had taken him four hours to get through traffic, we went down to Norman to my grandmother’s house,” Wallace said. “And then after that it was just trying to calm down to function enough.”
Paige Bailey, an Oklahoma Christian resident director, took shelter in the Prince Engineering Center along with the students staying on campus for the summer. Here, they tracked the storm via the news, surveying the damage as it occurred.
“We were watching the storm hit and I felt saddened and scared by what I saw,” Bailey said. “It was hard watching this happen so close to home and knowing there was nothing I could do to stop it.”
Joe Crawford, disaster relief minister at Memorial Road Church of Christ, kept track of the events as they transpired.
“Partly because my wife and I lost our home two years before, it was very emotional,” Crawford said. “I understood exactly what they were going through, it gave me a framework, a reference as to what they need before they did, so it was very helpful.”
There were obvious and immediate needs that had to be met and many organizations and individuals, including Oklahoma Christian, took part in aiding the victims.
“I immediately felt the need to help, but wasn’t sure how I was going to be able to,” Bailey said. “Thankfully OC took on housing some of the people and the opportunity was handed to me. OC touched many lives, but these people touched ours as well. We were so blessed to have this opportunity.”
Housing was one of the biggest issues during that time. Displaced families needed shelter as many were left homeless. A lot of them had almost nothing left.
“OC was so great during this time,” Bailey said. “Not only did they provide housing, but employees dropped off different types of donations every day. People would call and ask us what size clothing each new family needed, we had donations of money, toys, sheets, food, pretty much anything you could think of. Local churches provided a lot of things as well. Everyone had what they needed while staying on our campus.”
As a resident director, Bailey and the rest of the housing staff were given the opportunity to assist in the relief effort.
“Katy Fabrie and Freddie Lorick were the main lines to the people,” Bailey said.“I helped out when it was really busy or when one of them were on a break … we made sure that every person had all their needs met, and we checked on them often.”
The victims voiced appreciation for even the smallest of things in the aftermath of the storm.
“Churches gave us food and clothes and I was really happy when Memorial Road Church of Christ gave me a soft blanket,” Wallace said.
Though the storms occurred several months ago and a great deal of support was sent, victims’ needs still remain.
“People who had insurance are doing really well; people who didn’t are really struggling,” Crawford said. “The attention has turned and people are turning back to their daily lives, people think it is going great when it is really not.”
Money and rebuilding are two major issues for many of the affected areas and individuals.
“[We need] houses rebuilt and lots sold and cleaned,” Wallace said. “Most are cleared; even a few houses are being built.”
There are also non-monetary needs to be fulfilled.
“Bible studies,” Crawford said. “I need people who will go and do Bible studies with these people. You don’t have to have money, you just have to be willing to put one foot forward and help. We don’t have enough manpower to go help the victims with their physical needs … and we need both of those working hand in hand.”
Rebuilding and regaining stability in the areas hit by the tornado will be an ongoing effort for years to come.
“There has been a tremendous amount of needs still there and we would really like to be able to support these people,” Crawford said. “I don’t want people to forget.”
Some might say 16 minutes are fleeting; they do not matter. For others, 16 minutes can easily last a lifetime.
For anyone interested in helping out with Bible studies or any other needs, contact Joe Crawford at email@example.com.