By Tom Cole
The Moore American
MOORE — As we look back on the tornadoes that devastated Oklahoma last May, we still mourn the precious lives taken, neighborhoods destroyed and communities shaken. Despite a heartbreaking tragedy, especially for those living in my hometown of Moore, Oklahomans proved their resilience and the rest of the nation supported us every step of the way.
A year later, our state is stronger and recovery continues to look better each day, but this would not be possible without those who navigated the tragedy, responding immediately and with great urgency during the critical first hours.
The extraordinary outpouring of generosity and support from the entire nation, including first responders, local volunteers and countless donors, was beyond belief. Through local and national fundraising efforts and the dedicated work of volunteers, never once were we lacking in supplies or shelter for victims of the storms.
We remember the exceptional leadership of our state and local officials, including Gov. Mary Fallin, Civil Emergency Director Albert Ashwood, Moore Mayor Glenn Lewis, Moore City Manager Steve Eddy, Newcastle Mayor Karl Nail and Oklahoma City Mayor Mick Cornett. Their tireless work pulled us through a nightmare and kept our hearts and spirits alive.
President Barack Obama, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano and FEMA Director Craig Fugate personally came to Moore to survey the damage and offered support during the recovery process. Their watchful eye over the situation ensured that Oklahoma, especially the Moore community, received the aid needed from FEMA. In addition, members of Congress, from both sides of the aisle, reached out to express their sympathy and offered support in Oklahoma’s time of need. All of this reminds me that in trying circumstances, Americans will always come together to help their fellow Americans.
Even a year after the tornadoes, Oklahomans who were displaced by the storms are not forgotten. Recovery efforts are still in full force. The city of Moore has received generous donations, grant money and other support for rebuilding.
Last September, I was especially touched when Moore families were blessed by a tremendous donation from the Cantor Fitzgerald Relief Fund, a charity established by a company who tragically lost 658 of their 960 New York employees in the World Trade Center offices on Sept. 11. Representatives from Cantor Fitzgerald traveled to Moore and distributed numerous $1,000 prepaid debit cards to families who had a child in the Moore Public Schools District on May 20 and whose homes were damaged or destroyed.
While our state knows to expect and prepare for the threat of tornadoes each year, it doesn’t make it any easier when it happens. Lives are precious and irreplaceable, and we must be cautious in order to avoid casualties in severe weather. Both the National Weather Service and local meteorologists work tirelessly to advise us, and we must continue to listen to their direction in the days ahead. Lives are saved when we develop action plans for weather long before it happens, exercise caution when it does and always heed warnings immediately.
Even though the storms last May were some of the worst we’ve experienced in years, we are pulling through and showing that disaster cannot crush our spirits or break our communities. That is and always will be the Oklahoma way.
Tom Cole, R-Moore, serves as Oklahoma’s 4th District Congressman.