Finding My Sister
“Have you talked to Kim or Steven,” I ask my parents after finally reaching their home, which sustained minor damage. Steven is my younger brother. He was at work when the tornado ripped through my parents' and grandmother's neighborhood in Moore.
“No we don't have phone service. The power is out, too,” they tell us.
I go to the car and page Kim on my cell phone. I enter my pager number, since I only have about 12 minutes left on the cell phone. Then I wait.
Mom tells us she wants to go to the hospital to be with Grandma, but she doesn't want to leave Dad alone and he must stay at the house to protect it.
“What are you talking about?” Dad asks her. He gestures to the four or five neighbors in the front yard. “I'm not alone. You go be with your mother.”
Steve and I drive Mom to the hospital. When we arrive, the hospital staff tells us Grandma is in inpatient surgery and they will let us know when we can see her. She has suffered a gash to the back of her head and she is experiencing pain in her side.
As we wait, ladies in hospital uniforms bring us sandwiches and soda pops. I use the phone to page Kim again.
A television in the corner broadcasts images of the destruction. I watch for a glipse of my neighborhood, along wth the other people in the room. All of us are waiting to hear about our loved ones injured in the tornado.
After what seems forever, we decided to go see Grandma in cubicle No. 11, where we find her with a bandage on her head and her right hand, which has several stitches.
We talk with her while two doctors place staples in a three-in-long gash on the back of her head. Whenever she must move, she complains that her side hurts.
After with talk with Grandma, Steve and I decide to go back to Moore to tell Dad how Grandma is doing.
On our way back to the house, my pager vibrates. It is an unfamiliar phone number, followed by Kim's birthdate.
I grab the cell phone and quickly dial.
Kim wants to know if she still has a family, a house.
“Tell me, just tell me,” she says.
I fill her in, letting her know Mom and Dad are OK, Grandma is OK but in the hospital.
Mom's house is still standing. Grandma's is destroyed.
She is relieved.
We drive back to Wal-Mart on Interstate 35 to pick her up. She tells us her co-worker, Shirley, had tried to get her home, but the police would not let them drive into the neighborhood. Kim said she was able to walk as far as Northwest 12th Street and Santa Fe, where she saw a grocery store, drug store and convenience store were demolished or severely damaged. She figured her house was the same.
Steve drives us to Southwest Fourth Street. Kim knows the back roads, so she directs us to turn onto the first street west of Janeway. We wind through the neighborhood to Norman Avenue, then follow it across 12th Street to Regency Boulevard. No police are in sight on this route.
As we drive down Regency, we see more devestation in the darkness. Piles of debris litter the yards and streets. We see the bones of Regency Park Baptist Church from where its roof used to be. But up ahead, on Northwest 22nd Street, we see homes that are still standing.
We follow 22nd around and head down 23rd to the house. Still standing.
After the storm
Steven found his way back into the neighborhood Tuesday. He had spent Monday night at a friend's house, terrified that he'd lost most of his family. He and his friend help Mom and Dad clean the debris out of their backyard and sift through the belongings at Grandma's house.
Sunday afternoon, Steve and I drove through the Regency Park neighborhood south of my parents' street. We found what was left of a house a childhood friend of mine lived in. She and her parents are OK. But the house is gone.
My parents are handling the disaster well. Mother marvels at the generosity of the American Red Cross, the Salvation Army and other people who have donated more than the tornado victims could possibly need.
“When we're out there digging at my mother's house, I can just think what we need, and it seems about 10 minutes later, someone drives up and asks us if we need that item. Boxes, gloves, water, food — whatever we need, they're giving away. God is really working here,” my mother said many times while I helped her with the cleanup effort.
Grandma, it turns out, suffered two cracked ribs during her ordeal in the tornado. She says she hid in the closet in the center of her house when the television told her to. But the tornado tried to pull her out of the closet. She says she held onto the doorknob and that's what kept her from flying out. Edward found her behind the couch in the living room, which was sitting on the other side of the closet wall.
As I survey the pile of lumber and debris and linens at Grandma's house Wednesday, I wonder how that could be, that a door kept her from flying away. The walls to the closet have disappeared and we can't find the door or knob she says she held onto…