On May 3, 1999, at age 12, I watched the destruction that the EF5tornado caused in the Oklahoma City metro area. The damage wastremendous and I knew the needs in the coming days, months, and yearswould be sundry. However, I convinced myself that it would neverhappen to me or my community. It seemed like a once-in-a-lifetimestorm.
Fourteen years later, as a pastor in a United Methodist Church inMoore, I thought back to 1999 as I helped hurry people into the saferoom at our church. Drawn to the chaos -- as we often are -- I peekedout the door of the church to see the tornado in the distance beforelocking our group into the safe room. The image and the sounds of thestorm will remain with me for the rest of my life.
The storm passed and we walked back out into streets filled withdebris. We were looking at splintered pieces of people's homes andlives -- insulation, shingles, wood, and family photos. We found aphoto of a boy opening a Christmas present and a photo of a womanholding her newborn. Whether we wanted it or not, the aftermath of thestorm mingled our lives, stirred them together. We are inseparable nowin ways that we were not before the storm came.
Shortly after emerging from the safe room, a woman approached anotherpastor and me on the sidewalk. Her cell phone was not working and shewas in a different place than the rest of her family when the tornadopassed through. She did not know if her house was gone or if herhusband and child were alive. Storms do not care if we are together orapart. She finally received a text message: "The house is gone, but weare okay." She read the text out loud a few times, convincing herself,perhaps, that her loved ones were unscathed. She looked up at me andthe other pastor and asked, "Can I have a hug?" She wept between ourshoulders. We said nothing; we simply shared the embrace and thetears.
I was reminded of Job. When he lost everything, his friends came tosee him. Job had pulled out his hair, so they pulled out theirs. Jobhad torn his clothes, so they tore theirs. Job was covered in dirt, sothey covered themselves in dirt. Then, because Job was sitting theresilently his friends sat with him silently for seven days. It was whenthey opened their mouths to explain the cause of Job's troubles thatthey ruined the experience. We need to embrace that, sometimes, theright thing to say is nothing, and simply share the embrace and thetears.
Whether we wanted it or not, the storm has joined the new mother tothe boy and his Christmas gift, the two pastors on the street to thewife and mother who lost her home but kept her family.
We are inseparable.