MOORE — Three months ago, driving through Moore on Interstate 35 caused my heart to break. The swath of destruction on either side of the highway was evidence of the May 20th tornado, which struck too close to home.
Though that glimpse into neighborhoods destroyed is still visible from the highway, drivers and commuters (like myself) now see something else: rebuilding. The wood frames of new houses, cranes and trucks used for repairs and signs declaring “we will be back.”
On May 26, The Oklahoman published a story I wrote about what it will take for Moore to bounce back. I asked Kirstie Smith, communications director for the Joplin Area Chamber of Commerce, if her city, ravaged by a tornado in 2011, had fully recovered and her response — a resounding no — stuck with me.
“We feel really good about our progress,” she said. “But we have a long way to go.” After two years.
We, as consumers, have a lot of power to help the recovery in Moore. The dollars we spend there end up in the pockets of employees and business owners, as well as city coffers, and are used to keep this vibrant town humming.
Sales tax received in August is up 16.3 percent compared to the same time period last year. And it's a big deal, city employees say, because it comes after a low month in July, which experienced an 11.4 percent dip.
“Our neighbors are doing their part. It's amazing and it's working,” says Deidre Ebrey, economic development director for Moore.
Initially, spending was hampered by closed roads and shuttered stores. Most are now reopened after inventory was replaced, damage was repaired and electricity was restored.
Walmart, the city's biggest contributor to sales tax, was closed for several days and the store's parking lot was used for recovery efforts, which had a major impact. The store generates an average of $13,000 a day for the city, calculates Jim Corbett, Moore's finance director.
“When they're closed for two or three days, that adds up,” he said.
So choosing to shop in Moore — even if it's just a tank of gasoline or a new backpack — makes a difference.
When planning to celebrate my son's third birthday this summer, we chose to have the party in Moore. Family and friends gathered at the Warren Theatre for a showing of “Despicable Me 2,” and we bought cupcakes from The Cupcake Lounge, a lovely little Moore bakery.
Even though the birthday boy was barely tall enough to see the broken buildings out the car's window, and sums up a tornado with one word (“scary,”) little things like that will, hopefully, mean a lot.