This past week, I traveled to Oklahoma as a part of a disaster relief team.
For a few short days, it was my task to respond to homeowner-submitted work orders that were requesting volunteers to help clean-up debris, to find salvageable household items, and to otherwise use whatever resources and facilities I had to lend a hand to a community that was badly damaged in the F-5 tornado on May 20.
There was a lot of quiet. A lot of taking-in. A lot of prayer.
I traveled with a group from Cross Point Church in Nashville, to Bethany, Oklahoma, and traveled down to Norman, Moore and the outskirts of Oklahoma City, which were among the worst hit areas in the region. As you can tell from the pictures below, we spent our brief time picking through many acres of land collecting everything the storm stirred up — pieces of rooves, beams, electricity lines, pictures, sheet metal from barns, nails, glass – I picked up all of those things and more.
The last picture is from Moore, where we ended up at the end of our first day, helping a homeowner locate possessions underneath what was essentially a pile of rubble. As physically difficult as it was to dig through what was left of his house, it was even more difficult to visit the elementary school where seven children died, and see the cars wrapped around trees, or still in driveways, packed with mud and debris, and knowing as well, that people died in the homes here.
I’m sharing these pictures in an effort to share this moment, and also to share what the volunteering movement is like in Oklahoma and what kind of needs these people have. These pictures were all taken over a week after the storm came through. A lot of it will be picked up by trucks and trashed, but others will have to rebuild, they’ll have to go through their yards and pick up their lives.
On our way out of town on Friday, we listened to local coverage of another round of tornadoes coming through inevitably resulting in damage to the same counties as the first front and so far, responsible for the deaths of 18 people. It was incredibly hard to leave, and equally hard to transition back into office-life when there is so much need in the area. When there are people like Sam Dooley, a special-needs teacher who was badly injured at Plaza Towers Elementary, and whose home was destroyed in the second round this week.