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.