Alex E

Hi! My name is Alex. I am 22 years old. I live in Oklahoma, and I enjoy photography and just hanging out with people I love. On May 20th of 2013, a devastating tornado ripped through Moore, Oklahoma. I was working at Starbucks at the time when the sirens began blaring. We all knew that day was primed for tornadoes – what none of us could have imagined was how bad it was really going to be. As soon as the sirens went off, we closed down the store and ushered everyone out as quickly as we could.

Unfortunately, my truck did not have functioning windshield wipers so there was no where I could go. Mostly every other employee left right then while three of us baristas stayed behind. We took shelter inside of the women’s bathroom, which was the center of the building. We took a radio into the bathroom with us, which was our only connection to what was going out with the F5 tornado that was rolling towards us. I remember the meteorologist saying, “It’s heading straight for Starbucks on 19th Street in Moore. It will not help to be in an interior room, either get underground or leave, anything else is not going to help you,” and then the power went out, as did our only source to what was happening.

I began praying for the tornado to turn and not hit us. I prayed harder than I ever have before. It seemed like I spent hours inside of the dark bathroom, the only sounds around me were my two co-workers praying out-loud, then I heard the monstrous tornado ripping through buildings. I thought that this was definitely the end for me. I stopped praying for God to make the tornado turn and I began praying that He would make my death painless.

Even though every cellphone tower was completely backed up, I texted everyone I knew and told them how much I loved them. I wrapped my arm around the pipe that connected the sink to the ground and shut my eyes. And then, the roaring wind ceased… And then, it was gone. I had survived. The tornado went directly between my home and my place of employment. It was shaken beyond belief, but grateful even more so.

What I was not prepared for was the drive home. I had to drive directly past all of the damage. The tornado had taken out a hospital that was between my home and job. There were military and police directing traffic. I drove past people and sights that I will never forget. Shortly after, Starbucks hired a counselor to talk to anyone who was having trouble dealing with what happened. I sat down with him and told him how I couldn’t stop shaking, how every time I drove past the destruction I forgot how to breathe, I told him that I couldn’t speak correctly when anyone would bring up the tragedy, and he told me that I had Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

People don’t understand why I can’t think straight when the sirens go off now. They tell me that I grew up in Oklahoma, I should be used to this. I should laugh at it like they do. I want to, but I can’t. I can’t think clearly. Even if I know for a fact that I’m completely safe, if I hear the word tornado – I can’t breath, I can’t think, I can’t stay still. I know it doesn’t seem rational to them, and they don’t understand. I tell them that I have PTSD, but they think I’m being dramatic. It’s so frustrating to hear the love of your life tell you that you just need to, “Calm down”, “It’s fine”, “Why are you freaking out”, “Stop causing a scene”. I’ve tried to explain to them that I can’t just make it stop. I wish I could. For me… this is why we need to bring change 2 mind.

9 responses to “Alex E”

  1. Sue says:

    Thank you so much for sharing your story Alex. Keep sharing and educating the reality that PTSD is “real”, that anyone at anytime can suffer from PTSD who has experienced a horrifying tragedy. Sadly we suffer silently much of the time.

    Know that I got you, I understand exactly what your trying to get others to see and understand. Your not being “dramatic” PTSD is real, ongoing treatment and support is vital to move forward in a positive light.

  2. Dru says:

    Thank you Alex,for being so brave to share your experience. I hope you find your peace.

  3. Lily says:

    I have to admit this is probably one of the most interesting timed articles I have ever read, I am currently in Colorado and today we ended up having VERY bad storms even for Colorado standards but what made it even harder for me is I am currently struggling with PTSD from recent trauma myself, yet when the storm hit I was sitting in a group room inside a crisis stabilization unit. I feel blessed that no tornados touched down just stayed up in the air but the trauma came back out just by a storm. I’m VERY thankful to been in safe location for my panic attacks throughout the storm.

    Only a year older than you I can say I know what it’s like to go through PTSD and the recovery isn’t fast, it isn’t easy. You have cycles of good times and bad. I’m learning a new way to live all over again.

  4. April says:

    Have you tried EMDR? It works to cure PTSD

  5. Olivia L says:

    Hello, Alex, just writing to let you know that you are included in my prayers. I am sending happy vibes your way as you learn to cope with the aftermath of your ordeal. Thank you for bringing some light to what PTSD is & the trauma that can cause one to experience this kind of stress after Any trauma experienced whether, a natural disaster, a death or some sort of loss, abuse or any other life-altering happenstance. You are Not alone. Please continue to ask for help because that is the 1st step toward healing. Love & light to you & all others living with PTSD.❤-O.Lani

  6. Marnie says:

    Thank you for posting your story – it will help more people than you probably even know. First, it gives the world a real-life perspective on a different type of PTSD – most people equate PTSD only with war veterans or rape victims, because they haven’t been properly educated regarding this debilitating disorder. The atrocities that our war veterans & sexual-crime-victims have to endure, is beyond comprehension for most, but what the general population doesn’t realize, is that ANY traumatic event can cause PTSD, just like in the story above. No “one” person’s trauma is worse than anothers, because our brains process fear similarly, therefore making PTSD an equal opportunity disorder. We all have to stick together -those of us battling PTSD, and through sharing our stories, we can help heal ourselves and each other, AND educate the public.

  7. Maurice M says:

    I can only image what you saw after that massive tornado. You’re lucky just to be alive from only being a short distance away from that large Tornado. You’re anxiety and heavy breathing is sometimes difficult to control but we who have PTSD have to try and get into the habit in calming ourselves down. There can be many things that may trigger that feeling from a sound or just something out of nowhere. We can’t hide what we have we didn’t ask for it, it happened all on it’s own. I was in a automobile accident years ago in December 1998 and woke up in January 1999. Our minds are a mystery to even professionals but we can get better it may never go away entirely but we can coupe with it and share some awareness to those who need some awaking. Good luck in your every day life and remember you’re meant for a good reason that’s why you survived F5 monster Tornado.

  8. cindy s says:

    Wow ! What a horrible experience to happen to you. PTSD is real Alex and it is so hard for people to understand it. I was diagnosed with cumulative PTSD after serving 21 years as a police officer. I saw way to many tragedies, deaths, etc. which was a part of my job. My Dept. did not offer any help to officers unless it involved an officer shooting or being shot. Due to lack of support and a safe person to talk with my life changed. i became very depressed, angry, suicidal,etc. Eventually I sought help and now years later I am in a better place. I learned the things I did or viewed will not go away, I just need bunches of tools to work with my PTSD. There is hope..

  9. Little dove cole says:

    Thank you for sharing this. I was there also for both outbreaks of tornadoes. Our stories of PTSD are similar only I was trapped in a car and you were trapped at your work. I hope I find more like me so I don’t feel so alone in this.

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