Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Hit by Havoc, Oklahoma Responds

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Hit by Havoc, Oklahoma Responds

Article excerpt

Minutes after the storm blew through, state patrolman Jerry Cason set up a temporary command center from his car on Interstate 35. Then the cars began to stop. Spontaneously.

Someone volunteered his tow trucks to clear the highway. Another offered his forklift. "A guy pulled up with rubber gloves" for cleanup crews, he recalls. "Oklahomans say: 'Hey, we know how to deal with adversity ... I will cry, I will hurt. Now let's get on with the cleanup.' "

Quickly and with remarkable smoothness, Oklahoma City and its suburbs have begun to pick up the pieces in the wake of the city's worst-ever tornado. Like other devastated areas across America's tornado belt, the Monday storm that cut a 19-mile swath through the metropolitan area - and claimed at least 43 lives in two states - is producing that strange mix of grief and Good Samaritanism that often trails tragedy. Natural disasters everywhere do that. But here, the volunteer spirit comes with a special keenness. Four years ago, the terrorist bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah federal building brought this community together and forged attitudes and taught lessons that residents have not forgotten. In the face of this disaster, they came especially well-prepared to help. "We had extra stuff and we figured they needed it more than we did," says Melissa Ingram as she and her family dropped off clothes, diapers, and baby food for tornado victims at the First Baptist Church in suburban Moore, Okla. After the bombing four years ago, "seeing everything coming from other states, {outsiders} helping us when they didn't even know us, I think that opened up people's heart." In Moore, one of the hardest-hit of the suburban communities, donations came so thick and fast that several rooms and the hallway in a church were brimming with supplies 24 hours after the storm struck. "We just keep getting sacks and boxes," says Shannon Neeley, a volunteer. Someone brought in 20 mattresses. A woman dropped off a brand new child's car seat. A little girl folded up her Lion King sleeping bag for donation, while her father struggled with sacks of clothes to be given away. By Tuesday evening, some drop-off centers in Oklahoma City had received so many donations they were urging residents to hold off giving more until volunteers had a chance to process all that had been received. …

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