By Lindsey Ziliak Kokomo Tribune
---- — Mrs. Reeves climbed inside a shipping container in Shawnee, Okla., May 19 and braced for the storm headed her way.
She struggled to hold the container door shut with a rope as a tornado touched down and ripped through the trailer park she was in.
When the skies finally calmed and the storm had passed, she climbed out of the box unscathed. She had survived.
But as she looked around, all she saw was rubble. There were heaping piles of debris in every direction. Trailers had been flattened.
More than a month later, Rusty Maynard and his group from Center Road Church of Christ met Reeves along the side of the road.
They were in Oklahoma last week on a mission trip to help tornado victims.
Maynard said he unfortunately couldn’t remember the woman’s first name. He met so many who survived the tornado. It was hard to keep their names straight.
He would never forget her story, though. Maynard heard many last week.
“I never talked to anybody who didn’t want to tell their story,” he said.
For some, it was the first time they had talked about those horrific moments. Even a month later, many were still emotional.
Maynard counseled them, listened to them. Sometimes he simply prayed with them.
The pastor remembers one young couple in particular. Lance and Destiny had four young children and lived in a rural area off the beaten path. But when the tornado struck, the family was scattered. Mom and Dad were at work. The children were with friends, Maynard said.
After the tornado, phone lines went down. Lance and Destiny went hours without knowing if their children were OK.
“They were emotional,” he said.
When Maynard wasn’t counseling the people he met, he and his group were performing manual labor — clearing debris and tearing down houses.
The heat was brutal.
He was worried the youth on his mission trip wouldn’t be willing to do such hard work. He was amazed at their willingness to help, though.
They were on rooftops working for hours on end. They wouldn’t even stop for water breaks until Maynard made them come down.
Those living in the storm-ravaged area were gracious and thankful for all of the help, Maynard said. Some even offered to help out others when they could.
They would loan their tools to volunteers to use on other people’s homes. Some wanted to help clear debris and sort through rubble to help their neighbors, even though they, themselves, had lost everything.
There was so much devastation, Maynard said.
Those who had home insurance were rebuilding. But many in Shawnee didn’t have insurance. They were living with very little.
“It was humbling,” Maynard said. “You walk down here in 102-degree weather in pure dust with people living with their families in tents.”
He didn’t know how long families could live like that. Some were losing hope fast.
There were people who were determined to rebuild their lives. But some people had already given up, he said. They had abandoned things altogether.
Maynard said it was all so surreal. He didn’t really know how to describe it.
He said he was just glad he could help out and be the “hands and feet of Jesus.”
All around him, people were helping each other out. The spirit of giving really showed through there, he said.
“Something about it is horrible and terrible,” he said. “But there’s something about it that brings out the good in people.”
Lindsey Ziliak, Tribune education reporter, can be reached at 765-454-8585 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
WANT TO HELP? Those who wish to help victims of the Oklahoma tornadoes are encouraged to donate money at www.redcross.org.