You never truly appreciate a town until you’ve left it. Maybe it’s just me, maybe it’s a military thing …but it’s always true. I left Moore, Oklahoma in August 2010. I didn’t linger and say goodbye to all of the places we loved to shop or eat, I was focused on the new life we were starting. But, like every town we left during our twenty years in the military, I assumed it would always be there just in case we ever decided to wander back by and say hello.
Today I’ve watched countless reporters talk about the devastation, the loss of homes and cars, businesses and pets and even life, with the same sense of detachment they convey when reporting a political scandal. And I wish for just a little while they could stop thinking of this in monetary terms, stop focusing on the relief funds, the clean-up efforts, and the new statistics…and remember these are people and this was their home.
Veterans Park was near my house and my daughters and I use to walk there every night in the summer. They would play on the swings or chase lightening bugs while I walked the track, then we’d stop on the bridge and scan the water for snakes…always hoping we wouldn’t see one but then getting those delicious chills up and down our arms if we did. Today it’s broken trees and bits of chipped marble left from the memorial wall. But the last time I saw it, it was crawling with teenagers we rounded up for the biggest midnight game of hide and seek you’ve ever seen.
Both of my daughters went to Highland East Junior High before moving on to Moore HS. I spent countless hours parked in their horseshoe shaped drive waiting to pick them up after school. They made friends there, friends they still talk to. They joined clubs and went to dances. They had crushes on boys and gossip sessions with their friends. They planned sleepovers, lost homework, doodled on notebooks and they made memories.
I was one visit from scoring a reserved parking spot and my own chair at the Moore Medical Center. My husband broke two ribs trying out his new table saw, my daughter fell out of the pool (yes, you read that right) and sprained her back, and my youngest child tripped over someone, did a somersault and knocked herself unconscious at school….those are just the highlights. There were countless nights spent there with fevers, stomach viruses, and unexplainable kid rashes. In retrospect I think I should have had that reserved parking spot.We’re going to miss the skating rink where we practically lived on hot summer nights, stopping at Freddy’s every Friday for their creamy delicious ice cream, the post office with the friendliest staff in the country, and the bowling alley where I took all the girls after prom ended in tears and broken promises.
Moore isn’t just a town on a map and it isn’t just a bunch of statistics and demographics. It’s a home to thousands of people…and it was home for us. We made a life there, and then we packed it up and carried it away with lots of happy memories. For our friends, the residents of Moore, all they have left are their memories. The stuff that made up those lives is gone…carried away by a tornado. But…the people I know will persevere. They soldiered on after the bombing, and again after the Mar 3rd tornado in 99’. They’re not just strong, they’re Oklahoma Strong.
Jim and I traveled through Moore in May of 2016. It’s a changed city. The debris and chaos is all gone. Every single home has been rebuilt, and nearly every business is back up and running. The only visible sign of change was the Moore Medical Center. A new hospital is standing where the old one was, but the interior wasn’t quite finished. There’s a makeshift triage center in the parking lot made up of a long chain of portable buildings and tents. The grand reopening was scheduled for a few days after we left.