Middle School Hero

Closing the Teach For America Blogging Gap
May 22 2013

The Tornado

I was I my classroom, waiting for a parent to show up when the administrators came over the loudspeakers.

“Everyone in the portables needs to evacuate into the main building.”

We’d heard rumors of storms and had been told by our principal to come to school prepared for some rough weather but so far we hadn’t yet experienced anything. As I stepped outside of my classroom, the rain was just beginning to fall on the portables. I lingered for a few moments because I didn’t have a class and was afforded the luxury of helping other teachers evacuate instead of being directly responsible for my own brood. As the last students scurried into the building, small bits of hail started to fall and thus began my experience with what many have been calling the worst tornado in recorded history.

All every sense of the word, we were lucky. All of the southside schools spent much of the afternoon on lockdown but none of us received any real damage. In fact, it was impossible for us to know just how bad things were on the outside. Internet and cell services were spotty at best and so I had no idea that such devastation was occurring in Moore, a scant couple of miles away.

This was my first ever tornado experience and all it looked like to me was a bad rainstorm with hail mixed in. Parts of the school’s parking lot and walkways flooded but that was the extent of it. The craziest part was the fact that the school was in lockdown until 45 minutes after school would normally dismiss.

As we went in to lockdown, an inordinate number of parents started showing up looking for their kids. If you’ve ever seen RMS, you know that the building is designed to survive the worst. It might not be aesthetically pleasing, but I couldn’t believe that parents wanted to take their kids out of this fortress of a school back to the wooden one- and two-bedroom houses that so many of my students come from. In the end we had most of the families come in and take shelter in the gym until things passed over. After we wouldn’t let her take her son home, one mother declined our offer, saying that she’d left her two other kids at home and had to get back. As she walked away, I could only shake my head.

All in all, the kids were great throughout the entire experience. No one had a meltdown and I haven’t heard of a single instance of disciplinary problems. The students hunkered down in their safety locations and were able to ride out the storm in good spirits, which made everything so, so much easier.

For us, the storm ended as quickly as it started. We went from hail and pouring rain to sunshine and a settled mugginess within the span of maybe two minutes. It took us a while after to dismiss, but at that moment we knew we’d gotten through. Busses ran late and today we have no running water (you read that right- for our whole school!) but all things considered, everything’s been nothing short of perfect.

It wasn’t until I finally followed the last student out at 5 that I realized how bad things were. Once I got far enough north, I regained cell reception and was slammed with about 30 texts from friends and family all over the country asking if I was okay. Twitter was dominated by the news. So many of my fellow Corps Members took to Facebook, telling their loved ones that they were okay. Only when I started to see all these things did I realize just how bad things were. Things didn’t entirely sink in until I got home and watched the news with Uncle Pat and Gramps.

My thoughts and prayers are with those in Moore. Four of my good friends live there but their house was spared. The outpouring of love and offers to help from all over the city and state have warmed my heart. My MTLD and the Executive Director of TFA Oklahoma both reached out to me personally to make sure I was okay, which meant a lot. It was quite an experience for me and my kids, but it doesn’t begin to compare what those in Moore are dealing with.

For those looking for a way to help, you can text RED CROSS to 90999.

Be safe everyone.

2 Responses

  1. Ananda

    Ditto! Sometimes our altruism gets carried away .

  2. Anna

    Wait, what? How could you NOT release a child to his mother?? Riding out the storm safely had nothing to do with how strong you thought your shelter was, and everything to do with the path of the storm. Of course parents would want their children with them, and vice versa! Imagine if a parent had been turned away from picking up a child at a school that was subsquently destroyed? I’m sorry for what you went through but how can you not let a child go with his mom?

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Chronicling teaching middle school English in OKC

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