Teen's anthem helps keep ‘Oklahoma Strong'
On May 20, thousands of Oklahomans watched helplessly as a monstrous tornado ravaged miles of homes and the trajectories of thousands of lives.
“It was just so surreal, I just couldn't believe it,” said Rebekah Willoughby, 15, of Chickasha. She said she felt helpless. “It was only about a quarter of a mile away from my grandmother's house.”
Her grandmother's house had been damaged in the May 3, 1999, tornado that tore through Moore.
But, as so many creative Oklahomans have, it didn't take long for Willoughby to find a way she could help — through her talent.
“I've been writing songs pretty much as long as I can remember. Since I was very little,” Willoughby said.
The morning after, Willoughby picked up her cobalt blue acoustic guitar and within 30 minutes, she said, she had written “Oklahoma Strong.”
“200 mile an hour wind will knock you down,
Just enough to make this place a ghost town,
Hear the wind whistling even without trees,
See the people falling down to their knees,
We don't know what to do,
Won't somebody please help us through,
This town is falling apart and soon so will my heart.”
Willoughby uploaded to YouTube a video of herself playing the song and within a few hours, the video had thousands of hits.
That afternoon, Amy Willoughby, Rebekah's mother, received a call from “ABC World News,” asking permission to feature the video. It aired on that night's production and, the same evening, on the BBC in England.
Now, the song is available for download on iTunes and Amazon.com. All proceeds will be donated to the United Way Disaster Relief Fund. You can also hear the song and download it from Willoughby's website: www.oklahomastrongsong.com.
“I've always thought it would be really cool to be a professional singer but that definitely wasn't my intention while writing this song,” Willoughby said. “I mostly wrote this song just to give the people of Moore and Shawnee and all the places that got hit by the tornadoes some hope to be able to rebuild their towns.”
— Heather Warlick