This commentary originally aired on KOSU.
It was like a scene from the winter of a Russian revolution. Every twig and wire, branch, and street covered in thick layers of ice. It was December 2007, and Oklahoma City was like a statue of frozen roads and lifeless houses.
We lost power and were forced to leave our home. We were lucky. We were able to stay with my mom even if she only had one bed and one couch and we had three children and two of them were still in diapers. This went on for 11 days.
My husband and I tried to plow through it all, going to work every day, pretending our lives weren’t immobilized by the storm.
I don’t know why we kept appearances. Our stress was glacial. We all got pneumonia.
Really, it’s startling how the vortex of even a minor crisis can suck you down.
Like everyone, I take comfort in the stories of those who were looking to be saved and survived the recent tornadoes. But, occasionally, they’re a blinding light bouncing off the twisted metal of someone’s life. So many dreams caught in the skinned branches of lopped-off trees. Tales of courage cannot neutralize the losses.
I wish they could.
This past weekend, I was not swept away in a flood while hiding in a ditch from a tornado. I lived another week to tell another story.
On Sunday afternoon, I took my kids swimming. The woman in the lounge chair next to me had broken teeth and prison tattoos. She was reading a book called The Lessons In Love.
“I read a lot of these self-help books,” she said, “but I never finish any of them.”
She began to tell me about her life and within 10 minutes, tears had pooled in the dark circles under her eyes.
I seriously wanted to jump in the pool, hop across it, grab my stuff and runaway.
“I hope I can get my kids back,” she said. “And, my house, but I’m so tired. I don’t want to work fast-food anymore.”
She told me she always felt strong like she could stand up against all evil and stare it down, but not anymore.
“I just want someone to save me,” she said. “I just want to be saved.”
Looking To Be Saved
I paused for several seconds and stared at her. She was wearing a black bikini with the elastic dried and stretched out, just like all her hopes.
And, I said, “Michelle, you have been rescued. You have been saved.”
And she nodded her head yes, and then her cell phone rang and I slipped away.