Every Oklahoman has a favorite tornado story. A tall tale we trot out from time to time like a badge of honor to identify ourselves as real, authentic Okies.
I myself like to regale anyone who’ll listen with the story of the time I took shelter in the back of an Olive Garden kitchen, crouching amid vats of boiling pasta and creamy alfredo sauce, cursing the health codes that forbade me to eat my dinner right there on the floor.
That is why, on the night of May 20th, 2013, parked outside a truck stop in Kenosha, Wisconsin, I failed to understand why the tornadoes that were ravaging my home state that evening merited national media attention. Must have been a slow news night if CNN was devoting primetime coverage to what we Oklahomans accept as a matter of course, a fact of life.
That is until Don Lemon’s velvety smooth broadcaster’s voice uttered the words, “The destruction is reported to be worse than that of May 3, 1999.” I froze. Instantly, the 700 miles between me and home became closer to 7.
You see, I lived through the May 3 tornados. I’m old enough to remember the strange calm before the storms that night. Then, as now, I’d underestimated the magnitude of the destruction. Towns that were leveled in a matter of hours have yet to recover in over ten years. My heart sank.
Watching the parents searching for their children in the hollowed out shell of the Plaza Towers school building, I thought about all the times as a kid when I’d fallen asleep in our basement, listening to the weather alerts on the AM radio, head in my mother’s lap. I was never afraid because I was always protected. I cannot imagine the agony those parents suffered.
But quicker than the weather, our luck as a state has changed these past two months. In the first few days after the storms, messages from friends around the country flooded my inbox. My answer was always the same “Yes, my family is ok. Now, pray for the ones who aren’t.” It seems as if all of America heard me, and then some.
The outpouring of support from around the country for my little fly-over state has been overwhelming. But just as gratifying to me as witnessing a Texan seeing the light or a hometown kid sending his home run balls back home was the night my brother handed me a t-shirt from the benefit party he’d just attended. I’d been expecting your standard charity event shirt. You know the heavy cotton, wears like iron kind that quickly makes its way into the bottom of a Salvation Army bin. Until I saw the familiar Original Retro Brand tag hanging from the sleeve.
Silly as it sounds, I was deeply touched. As a self-proclaimed Original Retro Brand junkie, I knew my brother had purchased the shirt for a third of the retail price. With all proceeds going directly to the recovery effort, the good folks at Original Retro Brand had to know they wouldn’t be making any money on this deal. But I’ll be damned if they haven’t made a customer for life out of me.
Many thanks to Jayne for sharing her moving story with us today. This is the second guest-post the self proclaimed Retro Brand Junkie has provided for us and we look forward to more (check out her first here).
Please follow Jayne on Twitter @JayneAKenney for more of the good stuff.