24 people killed, 10 of them children.
Another reminder of how precious life is.
Not that we needed one.
According to the National Weather Service, Monday's tornado traveled 17 miles and was on the ground for 40 minutes. In less than an hour, 13,000 homes destroyed, $2 billion worth of damaged caused, communities changed forever.
Despite the high volume of video and pictures that has crossed my news desk this week, the capacity for destruction never ceases to amaze me. Nor do the stories of brave teachers sacrificing their own safety to protect their students, surviving dogs surprising their owners on live television, neighbors rescuing neighbors from the rubble.
I have felt for Oklahoma this week - as I have felt for Newtown and Boston. We've seen how cruel people can be and Monday's events show us how cruel Mother Nature can be too.
But I've also been humbled by Oklahomans, who have continued to smile despite the devastation.
They know the most important things in life aren't things at all; it's family, friends, health, life that are of highest value. They stand bravely on the sidewalk staring in disbelief at where their houses used to be. Some don't even shed a tear while picking through the rubble to look for their things. They thank God they are alive and call themselves the "lucky ones." Though no one will ever hold them to it, they promise to rebuild their city.
"We'll be back," they say. I believe them.
If ever I am caught in a tornado, I'd like to think that I'd behave like the residents of Moore, Oklahoma. I’d like to think I’d kiss the ground, be thankful I survived, and vow to live better, with more love and more happiness.
I'd like to think losing every single material possession I own wouldn’t matter if it meant everyone that I love is safe.
But when I see pictures of houses leveled, I just can't imagine the overwhelming sense of loss that these tornado victims must feel. I can't imagine their anxiety driving up to their neighborhoods to find everything they've worked for over the years, gone in the blink of an eye.
How do they begin to move forward, when everything they own is in a pile on their front lawn? Or their neighbor's front lawn? Or in most cases - lost forever?
I know all of the contents within my own four walls is just stuff - but usually it's stuff like family heirlooms, photographs, books, journals that serve as physical reminders of who we are and where we've been.
To lose it all at once must be devastating.
There's a website I found a few years ago called TheBurningHouse.com where people from all over the world post photographs of what they'd take with them if their house was ever burning down.
The website says, "It's a conflict between what's practical, valuable and sentimental. What you would take reflects your interests, background and priorities. Think of it as an interview condensed into one question."
While covering the news in Oklahoma, I went back to the website this week and clicked through the latest entries and I thought of what I would grab if I had the opportunity. If I had just minutes to save something – other than my loved ones, of course – what would I want to take with me?
No surprise, most of my items only have real value to me –
- Personal motto board (just in case it's hard for me to remember after the destruction)
- Books my mother gave me - Did I Tell You? (complete with her own captions) & Linda Goodman's Sun Signs (I think she might've been a hippie)
- Dad's Pentax camera
- Favorite picture of my brother and me (big version below)
- Cards and Notes (I'm a bit of a hoarder when it comes to these - might be tough to grab them all)
- Mascara (My mom hates it when I don't wear makeup)
- Concert ticket stub collection (I have big creative plans for these)
- iPhone (I know, I hate myself; I'm a complete convert)
- Every journal I've ever owned (because the chance of them surviving a fire and being found by anyone completely terrifies me)
- Family jewelry
- Not Pictured Because I Forgot: Passport (I figure after a fire/tornado I'm gonna need to get out of town)
I mean, this picture, to anyone else, is ridiculous. But to me, it is priceless.
This Burning House exercise was quite cathartic for me -
With so few material possessions that are truly important to me, maybe I would be like the residents of Moore if I lost everything after all.
I would love to hear what's on your list. If you blog - post your own picture and then link to it in the comments. Or just tell me - after your spouse, your children, your pets - what would you take with you? What would you be most sad to lose?
If you'd like to help the victims of Monday's tornado:
Text REDCROSS to 90999 to give $10 to American Red Cross Disaster Relief. It doesn't get much easier than that.
Have a wonderful (and safe) holiday weekend.