Moore, Oklahoma, was my “home town” for 14 years. We moved there in the Sixties, during a housing boom. Just across the Canadian River from Oklahoma City (and into another county), Moore was a small town affected by the white flight and various transitions of that decade. The population rose so rapidly from 1960-1970, that the city fathers called for a special census in order to adjust their school tax base.
The first year we lived in Moore, we bought our children’s text books and the PTA organized a used book program. Those who could afford it were encouraged to donate their used texts to the system. At one point, the largest employer – the entity that employed the most people – was the Moore Public Schools. You might say Moore’s GNP was children.
I loved that. And one of the main reasons we moved to Moore was that Moore High School’s Homecoming Queen was not the banker’s daughter or a teacher’s kid (not that there’s anything wrong with that). But that year Miss MHS’ dad was a school custodian and her mother worked at the Methodist Day Care Center.
Moore, called a blue collar suburb, retained it’s small town charm into the Seventies when it had grown from 2,000 to 25,000. From all reports of the past week, little has changed even now that 55,000 live there.
Yes, there was a tornado in Moore while I lived there. An F1-or-2 hit a mobile home park a couple of miles from our house. A baby died. We suffered broken car windows and found a piece of McDonalds’ sign in our yard. We cried and prayed and did what we could for those who lost their homes.
Last week, May 20, an early post on facebook said “Shelter and help at First United Methodist on Main Street.” Of course. The church I attended. Where I grew as a Christian. Where I worked and where three of my children stood at the altar and accepted Christ. Of course my church family would be some of the first to help.
In January, 1999, a tornado took the house in Beebe, AR that had been my parents’ last home. Memories of Holidays spent there, grandkids picking up pecans under the big tree, enjoying visits with Grammy and Poppy.
Then in May, 1999, a storm took the house in Moore where my children had grown up. Where we hosted ‘afterglow’ for the UMYF, I sewed prom dresses and cheerleaders practiced tumbles.
When I was able to visit these towns, months after the events, I could hardly find the spot where the houses had been because even the landmarks were gone. The tornadoes had taken everything. Or had they?
As we heard repeatedly this week: We haven’t lost everything. We still have family, friends … and memories.