SUDDENLY, all the talk of late-session wheeling and dealing by Oklahoma legislators doesn't add up to much. The recent spike in gas prices in this area? Washington politics? It's tough to get worked up about those issues today.
Not when the bodies of children could be recovered from their grade school in Moore. Not when so many people are hospitalized, and residents in Moore face the grim task — again — of rebuilding after a massive tornado.
All our everyday “pressing concerns” are exposed as almost trivial after a day like May 20, 2013. We felt the same way after May 3, 1999, when Moore was shredded by a twister. “May Third” became a part of our vocabulary, the standard against which all other storms in these parts were measured. Now May 20 is on the list, and Moore once again the victim.
The devastation of May 3 — about 1,700 houses destroyed and 6,500 damaged in Oklahoma and Cleveland counties — was breathtaking. So too was the show of support, which helped the city recover. The same will happen again. It's happening already, in ways large and small.
Energy companies Chesapeake, Devon, Continental Resources and OGE Energy Corp. have pledged more than $6 million. Chesapeake said it was organizing hundreds of its employees to help tornado victims, and encouraged other local businesses to chip in. They will of course, because they always do when Oklahomans are in need. It's known as The Oklahoma Standard.
Kevin Durant of the Oklahoma City Thunder said his foundation will send $1 million to the Red Cross for disaster relief. A young man waiting tables Monday evening let his customers know that he would be donating his tips to the efforts in Moore. He tweeted a photo of one tip — two $100 bills and a $20. Los Angeles Dodgers outfielder Matt Kemp, who grew up in Midwest City, is donating $1,000 for every home run he hits between now and the all-star break. These are just a few examples.
Gov. Mary Fallin said a bill is in the works at the Legislature that would allow the state's Rainy Day Fund to be accessed if needed. This would provide an example of lawmakers — who spend so much time playing politics — doing something truly constructive. The fund is set aside for emergencies; the Moore tornado clearly qualifies. Using some of the current $600 million fund balance would help Moore and state law enforcement agencies recover overtime costs for emergency personnel.
Lawmakers also should take seriously an effort by state Rep. Joe Dorman, D-Rush Springs, for a $500 million bond issue, with most of that going to pay for storm shelters at public schools. Republicans at the Capitol are no fans of bond issues, but this idea is worthy of discussion.
President Barack Obama came through nicely for Oklahoma, a state that hasn't shown him much love during his time in office. Obama issued a disaster declaration Monday to clear the way for federal assistance, and added Tuesday: “The people of Moore should know that their country will remain on the ground, there for them, beside them, for as long as it takes.”
Oklahomans will lead the way in that regard. Shelters and aid stations were being flooded with supplies Tuesday, items donated by churches and civic groups and individuals from across the state. Other things, much less pressing things, can wait — our neighbors are hurting, and they need our help.
“We've been through this before, unfortunately,” Moore City Manager Steve Eddy said Monday night. “I can tell you, though, that our citizens are resilient ... this community will recover.”
With help from all of us, Moore will be back.