“His middle name is Immanuel, which means ‘God with us.' I think it was perfect for the situation.”
— Shayla Taylor talking about her infant son
When a tornado hit the Moore hospital where she was giving birth, Shayla Taylor said she closed her eyes and prayed for survival.
A twister barreled into the hospital May 20, and what was already a life-changing event became even more momentous for the Oklahoma City woman.
“The ground was shaking and the building was shaking,” Taylor said.
“I opened my eyes and a wall was gone. I could see the (Warren) movie theater and I-35,” Taylor said.
She said she eventually was taken to Norman Regional Hospital, where she gave birth to her son Braeden. She later learned that her car parked in the Moore hospital's parking lot, 700 S Telephone Road, had been tossed into the building by the tornado. Although she felt blessed that she and her baby survived the storm, Taylor said she and her husband, Jerome, were anxious about the demise of their 1996 Toyota Camry.
Recently, the metro woman received aid from a disaster relief fund set up by a group of pastors who lead northeast Oklahoma City churches. The Concerned Clergy for Spiritual Renewal purchased a used car for Taylor and car seats for her infant and older son Shaiden, 4, through the group's Oklahoma City Christian Relief Fund. Taylor and her family were among 26 families who recently received assistance through the fund, the Rev. J.A. Reed said.
“We're concerned about what you're going through and what you've been through,” Reed, senior pastor of Fairview Baptist Church and president of the Concerned Clergy group, told storm victims who recently gathered at St. John Missionary Baptist Church, 5700 N Kelley.
The Rev. Major Jemison, senior pastor of St. John and chairman of the relief fund, said the Concerned Clergy organization received money from member congregations as well as churches in other parts of the state, nation and the Caribbean. Jemison said he is a former president of the Progressive National Baptist Convention and Reed is an officer with the National Baptist Convention USA and both of those religious denominations have contributed to the fund as well as other organizations.
Jemison said the clergy group's disaster relief fund does not have the depth that some national charities have but it has been able to provide money for immediate needs for many storm victims. He said the group also distributed more than 120 gift cards to storm victims working in affected neighborhoods within the last week.
The Taylors attend Reed's Fairview Baptist. Reed and the Rev. Lee Benson said they found out about Taylor's car from her father, the Rev. Clarence Prevost of Sasakwa, Okla.
“You don't budget for a tornado,” Reed said.
Prevost said he was grateful when the clergy group offered to help his daughter and her family.
“For the church to step in and meet the need, I'm just flabbergasted,” he said. “She needed something at that moment, she didn't need something later and the church was there.”
Taylor, who recently earned a nursing degree from the University of Central Oklahoma, said receiving the 2000 Buick Sentra from the clergy group has helped her family tremendously.
“It looks a lot better than what my car looks like,” she said, smiling.
Taylor said the last several weeks have been busy but she had been able to reflect on the events of May 20. She said after she realized that the hospital had been hit by a tornado she looked around her.
“I was scared and of course my next thing was to check and see if the nurses were there and I wanted to make sure that the baby was OK,” she said.
Taylor said her family survived the storm in the hospital's cafeteria. Medical personnel eventually had her transported to the Norman hospital via helicopter so she could give birth there.
Looking at her infant son, Taylor smiled and said his middle name — chosen about four months before he was born — is very appropriate and helps place recent events in proper perspective.
“His middle name is Immanuel, which means ‘God with us.' I think it was perfect for the situation,” she said.
Reed said he also saw providence's hand in the young family's story.
“A baby was born in a storm. Where life was taken, life was given,” Reed said. “There's always good that comes out of a bad situation. Remember that.”