For some Oklahomans, tornadoes are a personal subject
Oklahomans Sue Marts Alexander and Miranda Lewis never have met, but they share a respect for tornadoes.
Oklahomans Sue Marts Alexander and Miranda Lewis never have met.
Nevertheless, they respect tornado warnings more than most people, partially because of a child and a bed.
In Alexander's case, she was the child. About 8:40 p.m. April 9, 1947, a tornado struck Woodward, killing 107 in the city of 5,500. Lives also were claimed in other communities that night.
Alexander, 3 years old at the time, was already in bed with her older sister and younger brother at Woodward when it hit. What she knows is what her family was told and in turn relayed to her.
A man found Alexander and took her to the hospital at Mooreland, about 10 miles east of Woodward. He said he heard a child crying and located her in a hole beneath a car.
In Lewis' case, the child was her son, Copper, age 6 when a tornado destroyed their house on May 24, 2011, southwest of Calumet.
Nine people were killed as the EF5 tornado traveled from near Hinton to Guthrie. Lewis' husband, Jesse, and Copper were safe in Elk City in western Oklahoma at the time the tornado struck. Lewis, who was pregnant with their daughter, was safe in a shelter at a friend's house four miles down the rural Canadian County road.
However, when Lewis returned, the house was a nightmarish heap. But her eyes kept returning to an oak tree across the road.
The storm “had just taken my son's whole bedroom on the corner of the house and thrown it down there and shredded everything.”
She knew the tattered bedspread and twisted box springs in the tree had been on her son's bed. She connected what she saw in that tree with what could have been, and she lost it.
“When I saw those, I knew I could have lost him if we'd been there,” Lewis said. “Losing your things is hard, but it's no big deal. It's nothing compared to losing somebody you love.
Alexander and Lewis have never met but they share a deep respect for the power of severe weather in Oklahoma.
Alexander said her mother, Elnora Marts, instilled that in her children. After the tornado in April 1947, Marts watched storms closely. She would rush her children to the cellar.
“It's kind of like I watch the skies, but when there's a certain feeling in the air, I don't know what it is, but I know it's time to hit the cellar,” Alexander said, “I don't have to wait for them to report it on the TV.”
Lewis said there have been times since May 24, 2011, that it has been very difficult to get her fear under control.
“I know that the chances of this happening to us more than once are pretty slim, but the chance is still definitely there,” Lewis said. “I believe that the fear will get better over time though.”
Alexander has two scars across the top of her knees and several on her back.
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