Tornado Heroes

The news was terrifying wherever we looked last night, May 28, with mind-numbing numbers: 500 tornados touched down in the last thirty days, roaring through 22 U.S. states. Heavy rains, flash flooding, continuing storms, tornados everywhere. “It looks like a war zone,” said dazed residents, looking over the rubble of their communities.

Yet in the midst of the devastation, stories of protectors, helpers and rescuers already are surfacing. One article, “The Heroes and Helpers of the Oklahoma Tornado,” highlights some of the people who jumped in to save lives and help victims when a tornado ripped through Oklahoma on Monday, May 20, leaving 24 people dead, hundreds of people injured, and $2 billion in damages.

For example, in Moore, Oklahoma moments before Plaza Towers Elementary School was destroyed, teachers saved as many children as they could. Sixth-grade teacher Rhonda Crosswhite herded six children into an inner restroom stall with her. She told them to get on the floor, and then laid on top of them. She ended up covered in cuts, but all the students survived with only one minor injury among the students.

At Briarwood Elementary School in the same town, special education teacher Suzanne Haley shoved students under their desks and surrounded them as best she could. In the process she received a metal desk leg through her calf. Third-grade teacher Julie Simon hurried her children into a closet, and held onto them when the winds started lifting them upward. Teachers Sherri Bittle and Cindy Lowe had their children huddle and a corner and cover their heads with packpacks, then shielded the children with their own bodies.

Volunteer groups – including the Chickasaw Search and Rescue group, Oklahoma National Guard Airmen, Tennessee Task Force One, Multi-County Fire Corps from Hinton, OK – rescued more than 100 people from the wreckage within the first 24 hours. Local and online groups found lost animals and matched them with their families. And the list goes on.

All across the swath of tornado destruction, helpers are responding, putting their generosity to work. You can help, too. Give through the United Methodist Committee on Relief or your personal church or community channels. Thank you.

Your partner in ministry,

Betsy Schwarzentraub

See also: White Helmets in Syria