Sunday, May 26, 2013

Silver Linings in the Angst of More Tornadoes

Clouds that roar and wear tones of faded dirty greens and yellows cause me to stop and feel the air around me.  Growing up in Oklahoma set my internal clock for air pressure changes.  Sirens and weather alerts merely bring my fear to the forefront.  Sunday, May 19 found us sitting inside the Civic Center Music Hall in Oklahoma City watching one of my PHMS students, Piper Hoskins, graduate from OCU Law School.  Truly, it was a fulfilling moment for me, and for the hundreds of parents and friends of these students.  Then the sirens rang and my heart skipped a beat.  This room wasn't safe, no matter what anyone said.  These kids deserved a chance to make this world a better place, and the prayers of many beamed to the heavens.
A Silver lining in a Rainbow just north of Edmond.

We were lucky, but those in Edmond, and other parts of Oklahoma were not, homes and  lives were lost that day.  We waited out the storm  before driving back to Kansas, and then watched as the sky erupted into a deep rolling black and blue bruised cloud building over our friends and families in Norman.  There was nothing we could do but drive north and pray.  Sometimes the helplessness adds to the fear and hurt. Norman was spared but Shawnee took a hit. The voice of Gary England on the radio kept Jack and me informed of the tornado's path; my mind wondered through a lifetime of stormy memories.  Mother's words floated back to me, as they do most often when my heart is heavy, "Look for the silver lining in everything, Letty."   Then this rainbow appeared on the back side of the Edmond storm; I thought the worst was over and felt relief.

My mind or perhaps my heart, drifted back to people and places that once made a difference in my life before they died a tragic death.  One special person was Dr. Sarah Reed.  She was the Director of the Emporia State University Library School from 1975-78; the same years I lived in Greensburg and worked on my Master's degree.  She was a gracious gentle woman who allowed me to bring my little daughter, Katy, to weekend workshops.  Sometimes Katy played dolls and colored in her office while Sarah worked at her desk, and I sat in class.  My favorite memory was when she invited us over for tea.  Her antique furniture matched her charm and grace.  We sat in her living room and drank hot tea from china cups, discussing books and how computers might someday change our world, while Katy frolicked on her red cushioned love seat, and Sarah smiled.  The summer of 1978,  Sarah died a violent death while on a dinner theater showboat on a lake near Pomona, Kansas when a freak tornado rolled the boat killing three friends from ESU, and leaving another hole in my heart.     (for more on the Pomona tragedy read the article by Stu Beitler

Monday, May 20 a little after 3:00 my daughter, who lives in OKC,  texted me, "I'm safe.  Don't worry."  My head screamed and I called her immediately.  "Safe from what?"  Her voice pounded with her heartbeat as she explained what was happening just south of her in Moore.   Within minutes I turned on the TV and was faced with the horror of one More tornado.

For the loss of lives, especially our school children, my heart aches.  The devastation, like Joplin, Greensburg, Udall, and so many more will take years of hard work to overcome,  and for a few there will be some silver linings.

May 19, setting sun after the storms had passed along I-35.


  1. Dear friends, a classmate called me after reading this blog and said, "Letty, you're not going to believe this, but my brother Tommy and his wife were on that very same boat. He told me how horrific it was and so much like the Poseidon adventure. When the boat flipped over those inside were trapped by the drapes and furniture floating and sinking and making escape nearly impossible, but my brother and his wife were some of the lucky ones." How unbelievable is that for a small world story.

  2. Letty - I love the idea of silver linings and I truly believe in them. It's hard to remember sometimes when tragedies continue to bombard us. Those of us who are educators can't help but place ourselves in the same school hallways and restrooms that were destroyed in Moore. I don't think most of us have actually processed what happened at those schools yet. Not sure you CAN process the idea of those precious children losing their lives. Everyday, we watch the news and the pictures of those destroyed schools just keep slamming into us. I am so thankful that we had one more day of school on the day after the Moore tornado and grateful that I could hug kids all day long because they were safe and alive and I was happy to see my school walls and windows and doors still standing when I got there. Twice this year (Sandy Hook, Moore) I have been almost blindsided with the reminders of how precious my Pioneer kids are to me. I know that my teachers all feel the same way.

    I attended a National Writing Project conference in Vegas in the fall with Amy Simpson, the principal at Plaza Towers, and spent quite a bit of time with her. I can't stop thinking about the incredible sense of loss and sadness she must feel, not to mention the second-guessing she must be doing even though I know she did everything she could to keep her kids safe.

    As they say, "life goes on." I don't think it will go on in quite the same way as folks will always look at severe weather in a new light as it affects our abilities to protect our kids. In the meantime, I am waiting for the multiple images and feelings associated with this tragedy to become less persistent but never forgotten.

    Be safe!

    Karen Canfield