The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

May 21, 2013

May 20, 2013: It was just an ordinary day

By Jeff Mullin, columnist
Enid News & Eagle

— It was just another ordinary day.

Monday dawned humid and hazy. Alarm clocks sounded, sleepy eyes opened, bare feet hit the floor.

Children begged to stay in bed just a couple minutes longer, mommy, but were told to get a move on, it was time to get ready for school.

Coffee was brewed, cereal was poured, small talk made across the table, lunches were packed. Backpacks and briefcases were loaded into the car, along with the kids, and the trip to school and work began.

It was just another ordinary day.

The car radio talked of possible severe weather, and gave reports of the damage and loss of life from the tornadoes the previous day near Shawnee.

Cars pulled up in front of schools, doors opened, kids piled out, “I love yous” yelled over shoulders.

It was just another ordinary day.

Then it was time for work, either at the office or at home, paperwork, housework, it all needed to be done.

Teachers taught, students learned, with an eye on the impending conclusion of the school year.

It was business as usual in Oklahoma, and why shouldn’t it be?

It was just another ordinary day.

Lunchtime came and went, mothers feeding babies, kids eating peanut butter and jelly, business people making deals and swapping jokes over plates of pasta or salad.

The skies darkened. The weather people kept warning of possible storms. The air felt like you could wring water from it if you squeezed hard enough. The thought crossed the minds of those who have lived here long enough, the air felt like it did May 3, 1999.

The clouds began to build, climbing higher by the minute. Soon, the storm was the color of a severe bruise, purple and angry, and was churning ominously.

But it is spring in Oklahoma; those of us who have lived here for any length of time become used to seeing angry clouds, hearing warnings. We hear the warnings, but we do not listen.

It was just another ordinary day.

Then, the monster grew teeth, claws and a seriously bad attitude. It churned, it blew, and it spun its own destructive tail. The broadcast warnings became more urgent, more pointed. We heard, and we listened.

By the time it was through, it had surpassed the horror of May 3, 1999. Whole neighborhoods were laid waste, businesses destroyed, cars tossed like toys.

And at the schools that lay in its path, the unthinkable happened. The walls that held blackboards and signs encouraging students to do their best, blew down.

In the chaos, teachers threw their bodies on top of their students, willing to sacrifice themselves to save the lives of their young charges. It was no surprise. That’s just what teachers do.

Within minutes of the storm’s passage, parents frantically raced to their children’s schools, desperate to see them, to hold them, to weep with joy. But some wept with sorrow, instead.

There was plenty of weeping in Moore Monday following the storm. But the weeping quickly gave way to a grim determination to help, to make a difference.

Ordinary citizens showed up to aid victims and search for survivors. Those who don’t live near the area began organizing drives to collect money and material to assist in the relief effort. That was no surprise. That’s just what Oklahomans do.

Oklahomans have been down this horrible road before, far too many times. We know the drill. We pull together in times of trouble. We forget our differences, we offer helping hands and shoulders on which to cry. We give, we pray, we cry. And we do it together.

We will mourn our dead and celebrate our survivors. We will rebuild. We will move on.

And the next time the weather folks begin to beat the drums of warning about possible severe weather, hopefully we will hear, and we will listen. Hopefully, we will remember the lessons of Moore.

For those affected by this terrible tragedy, May 20 will never again be just another ordinary day.

Mullin is senior writer of the News & Eagle. Email him at