A row of backpacks on hooks in a roofless grade school corridor.
This is just one of many images that will stay with us because they represent the horror without actually being the horror. The fate of the students, the fate of their teachers. The fears of parents helpless to help when their children needed them the most.
May 20, 2013.
So accustomed are Oklahomans to severe weather warnings that Sunday's tornado outbreak took a while to get our attention. Then came Monday. Then came comparisons to May 3, 1999. Then came images of storm path charts showing where the two tornadoes crossed, a common point separated by 14 years and a thousand indelible memories.
Then came the image of the backpacks at a Moore school reduced to rubble in a flash.
It will be ages before anyone questions the need for frequent program interruptions and those annoying weather maps on the bottom of television screens. Our colleagues in broadcast journalism deserve high praise taking the threat seriously from the moment a funnel cloud began its descent near Moore.
Meteorologists had advised of the possibility a major storm was brewing, but they couldn't say for sure. The tornado bisque they described boiled over. We viewed in horror a grim repeat of that May 1999 “storm of the century,” a pristine cone turning nasty and black as it wrapped itself in dark rain and ground our bones to make its bread.
How awesome and furious was this fresh show of celestial fury, in a different century yet seemingly in the same place. That more lives weren't lost on that Monday and this one is a tribute to the preparedness that Oklahomans have built into their thinking.
Now come the sad stories, the heartrending deaths of young and old, the miracles and the survivals, as the black funnel wraps itself in grief. Now come the recovery, the selfless deeds, the sacrificial giving and the comforting words.