Wednesday, May 22, 2013

The Hard Part in Moore, Oklahoma

The news out of Moore, Oklahoma remains grim. The initial adrenaline rush is gone now, along with the shock. What is left is the numbing scope of the damage and that terrible roll call of names--the identities and ages of those who perished during what has now been classified as an EF5 tornado.

Insurance officials estimate that 13,000 homes have been either destroyed, or damaged. The first guess at the cost of the destruction is $2 billion.

The Oklahoman is reporting that 237 people were injured and that six are still unaccounted for. The state medical examiner's office released the names of 17 of the dead, the rest will not be made public until authorities can notify their families. Of the 17, ten are children. The youngest, Case Futrell was listed as four months old. He was killed along with his mother, Megan. According to NBC News she had picked him up at his baby sitters but when she saw the storm headed her way she took shelter in a 7-11 convenience store. The tornado collapsed the building on them and two others.

Kyle Davis--8 years old, Ja'Nae Hornsby--age 9, Sydnee Angle--9, Emily Conatzer--9, Nicolas McCabe--9, Christopher Legg--9 and Antonio Candelaria--9 were apparently all students at the Plaza Towers elementary school that was destroyed. According to the ME five of them died by "mechanical asphyxiation." In other words they suffocated under the weight of the debris. The rumor that the children drowned in a cellar was just that, a rumor.

Also listed as dead were, Sydnee Vargyas who was 7 months old and Karrina Vargyas who was reported to be 4 years old. NBC and The Oklahoman have not speculated on how they were related.

The other adults are, Hermant Bhonde--age 65, Terri Long--49, Shannon Quick--40, and Jenny Neely--38. Two other people were listed as having unknown ages. They are, Cindy Plumley and Deanna Ward.

This being America, Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt was quick to warn homeowners and the public about charity and repair cons that are sure to infest the internet, phone lines, and the devestated neighborhoods themselves. Pruitt stated he has all ready put 30 investigators into the field to keep an eye out for price gouging by local merchants and quick fix scams by the dozens of out of town contractors that are bound to swarm the area in the next weeks and months.

Finger pointing has also begun. Terse questions are being asked about the lack of "safe rooms" in both homes and schools. The problem with that line of inquiry is that most experts agree that short of a bank vault (which was used by employees and customers at a local credit union to survive) safe rooms wouldn't have worked in a storm of this magnitude. No, when an EF5 comes roaring down the street you have two options. Get below ground is one and the second is jump into a car and drive like NASCAR's Jeff Gordon to get away from it.

Governor Mary Fallin and the rest of the republican elite toured the site yesterday. Barak Obama is reported to be coming into town Sunday. It will be an awkward moment for a couple of reasons. First is Fallin's resistance to jump on board with the Affordable Care Act. She is under intense pressure from the extreme right, which is just about everyone in Oklahoma, to not take the federal money available to the state in the program.  But mainly, like most Oklahoma republicans she has spent the last four plus years running against anything Barak Obama has ever said, or done. The local democratic party is a dead duck, so much so many GOP public officials here run unopposed. All of them, including Fallin, direct their campaign anger and bile directly at the current President of the United States.

Obviously her stated politics about small government, less federal intrusion in local affairs, and spending came to an abrupt, if momentary, halt Monday afternoon. She was quick to plead for those big FEMA bucks and has been even quicker to accept them. It would seem that when the shit hits the fan everyone becomes an avid liberal, at least until the checks are cashed.

So now comes the hard part. By this weekend, or at the latest, the middle of next week, Moore, Oklahoma will have faded from the national and global news. Wolf Blitzer and Matt Lauer will have gone home and new outrages and disasters will fill the airwaves. The CNN video of Blitzer talking to the lady who told him she is an atheist and the CBS interview with the old woman who discovers her missing dog during the middle of it will be forgotten. Moore, however will still be there and so will the survivors who have no place to call home. The wreckage will still have to be hauled off and houses, businesses, and schools will still have to be rebuilt.

The influx of cash donations will dry up and travelers offering everything from cheap siding and roofing to complete rebuilds will descend on the area like a plague of locusts. And finally, Senators Inhofe and Coburn will return to Washington and concentrate on whatever it is the NRA tells them to concentrate on. Yes, we are a fast food nation with the attention span of a five year old who has eaten two thirds of the way through his trick or treat bag. Unfortunately things don't get fixed that quickly and lives, sometimes, can never recover.

The world will move on, but for the remainder of this year and maybe longer Moore will continue to struggle with what happened on Monday.

There will be brave talk about resilience, fortitude, and faith. A lot of it will be true. What will also be true is that every one who lost a loved one, or a home, or just happened to survive the tornado will never be the same again. That observation won't make the speeches and the sermons, but it is, nonetheless, the reality.

The first obituary of a victim appeared in the local paper yesterday. It was about the life of eight year old Kyle Davis. Like the clean up, the rituals have just begun.

sic vita est


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