Today, on the five-year anniversary of the massive tornado in Windsor, Colorado, our hearts, along with the nation’s, are with the people of Oklahoma.
As we continue to watch footage of the aftermath and hear tales from survivors, I find myself back in the living room of Gus Puga in the Eastern Plains town of Holly, Colorado, where I sat more than five years ago to chronicle the story of the tornado-ravaged town and its people in "Moving On". It was actually Puga’s mother’s house, as his own trailer home had been obliterated by the tornado that had ripped through the sleepy streets of Holly one year before. Puga and his two children had been living with his mother since then, trying with the rest of the town to recover from the utter devastation of their lives. But one person was missing. Puga’s wife Rosemary died that night, just one of two fatalities, after the tornado flung their house—with the Pugas inside—into a nearby tree.
Sitting on the couch across from Puga, I’ll never forget the look in his eyes as he recalled that night the tornado swept through Holly and swept away his wife. It was a look of utter helplessness and pain. Powerlessness. Ultimately, the story is one of hope and recovery for the forgotten town of Holly, but for Puga, a part of him will always be unrecoverable.
That powerlessness descended on Oklahoma on Monday at 2:45 p.m., when a one-mile-wide tornado touched down just outside Moore, a suburb of Oklahoma City. The storm was categorized as an F5 on the Fujita Scale, the most destructive class of tornadoes, with winds up to 210 miles an hour. It tore through 17 miles of Oklahoma, leaving at least 24 people dead and 2,400 homes reduced to rubble, according to the most recent reports. Nine of those fatalities were children, most of whom had sought shelter at the Plaza Towers Elementary School in Moore. (For reference’s sake, the Windsor tornado, an F3 on the scale, killed one person, destroyed 78 homes, and damaged up to 3,000 more over a 39-mile path.)
So today, while the people of Windsor look back, and while the Pugas in Holly are struggling with their own demons, we all hurt for the people in Oklahoma. For anyone who, in this early stage of grief and rebirth, is feeling unrecoverable, I hope that they, too, can find a way to move on.
—Image courtesy of Shutterstock.