It started out a normal day. We went and ate lunch, ran a few errands and prepared for Bill to leave for a few days for work. The air was thick. I can't recall a time where the humidity was so high. It was awful and sticky and made you feel yucky. For days everyone was talking about how the weather was supposed to be bad. For days they were saying Monday would be the worst. Well they were right. It was.
Bill left for the airport around 1:30 pm. We kissed good-bye and he was out the door. The last thing he said as he left was a reminder to keep an eye on the weather and of course I promised I would.
The afternoon carried on like normal. I put Billy down for a nap, and as promised I kept the TV on the local news so I could keep track of the weather if anything should come up.
I called my sister and asked her what she thought would happen. She said the reports she was hearing is that we would be getting a bad storm that should be mostly hail. I decided that I'd better not ride it out at her house and I should just stay home and keep my car in the garage.
A little later I called Bill to check on his flight status and see if he and his coworker had made it to the airport ok. They were there and were going through security so we didn't talk long. I told him what my sister had said and that I was going to stay home and get in the bathtub with Billy should it get bad. That was our last conversation until after.
It all seemed to go fast after that. The news was up loud. Billy was passed out on the couch and the dogs were asleep on the chair. I was watching as they said Tornado Warning. I was watching as it tore through Newcastle. Worried about a friend of mine that works there I tried to get in touch with her but wasn't successful. Later I would find out she was in a shelter at work.
I kept watching and getting up to look outside. Surely we'd be fine.
Standing on my front porch I heard it. The siren. THE siren. The one I'd heard only a few times before when it was being tested on sunny Saturdays. I panicked. I rushed back inside and caught bits of what they were saying....monster...same path as May 3....if you live in Moore seek shelter now...you need to be underground, a bathtub or closet isn't safe enough...this thing is huge...massive damage so far...TORNADO EMERGENCY...
My phone rang and I was relieved that it was my brother-in-law. He instructed me to get Billy and the dogs and leave immediately to join him at his grandparents' cellar a few miles away. I didn't hesitate. I scooped up my sleeping baby. Yelled for the dogs and got the heck out.
On my way my father-in-law called. Shaken I answered the phone. All I remember is him telling me to hurry and that I had 15 minutes. The sirens continued. Loud...blaring...screaming at me.
I didn't know where to go. I'd never been out to his grandparents' house before. So I went to my sister's house. I rushed out of the car to bang on their door. No aswer. I tried again. Surely they hadn't already left. I don't know where to go. I need to follow them. Why aren't they answering the door?! Frantically I called to find out where to go. I couldn't get through. I tried three or four more times until he answered. He quickly told me they had left and were already at the cellar and gave me directions.
In normal circumstances I stink at directions, north, south, east, west....so in my state there was no way what he was telling me was sinking in. So he lovingly and very calmly stayed on the phone with me the entire three miles until I parked in the driveway.
We got underground immediately and waited. To my surprise I had a little cell service so I was able to get updates from a good friend back home. (Back home meaning two hours south of this madness.) We knew right where the tornado was the whole time and were completely safe.
After it was passed us we emerged to the darkest sky. It seemed angry and possessed. NOT the Oklahoma sky I was used to. It was raining so we said our good-byes and parted ways. Now we went to see what was of our homes.
The drive back to my neighborhood was intense. There was so much rain. There were so many tree limbs down and power lines were clearly no longer in service. I cried the entire way home. I wasn't scared anymore. I wasn't afraid of our house being gone. I was relieved and so thankful that Billy and I were safe.
A few hit a miss text messages and missed phone calls later I found out Bill was still safe at the airport and he was trying to get on another flight. It felt so good to hear his voice. I wanted him home.
Pulling into our driveway I couldn't believe how lucky we'd been, how blessed we were that our home was spared. Our family was fine and all the damage I could see was debris. Very minimal debris. Praise God!
After I got inside I turned the TV back on. It started right up. We didn't lose power. Then I saw it. The devastation. The mangled cars and ripped apart buildings. The people searching for their loved ones. And schools...schools...piles of rubble. My heart sank and I felt guilt. Tremendous guilt that has let up some, but not gone away.
My family is perfectly preserved and so was our home. A few miles away so many others didn't have the same outcome.
This is my story of May 20, 2013. I guess it's a survival story. One that I'm so glad I'm here to tell.
Oh, I forgot to mention. May 19, 2013 was my first night as a resident of Moore, and May 20, 2013 was my first full day.
I do what I can, when I can to help the people here that are picking up the pieces. I hope if you're reading this you'll do the same.