When I was 15 my best friend was killed in a car accident. This was my first experience of real heartache. My mom insisted I see a counselor to get through this difficult time. During that process I realized how important the counselor was to me and how much she helped. Through time I came to understand my calling of being a counselor.
I started school counseling in Guthrie where I spent 2 years and then moved to Moore. I worked there for 3 years. This past school year, I was challenged. My heart was broken many times for hurting children and difficult situations. My school was high in poverty which makes everyday an adventure. In October, we had a news breaking gun scare, which was very real and very intense. I was in the middle of the lockdown and had to put myself in crisis management like never before. That day was hard as were the days that followed. Then, in December, we heard the news just like the entire nation about Sandy Hook. When you work in a school you relate to just about every situation you hear. I remember so well discussing with my office staff what we would do if that would have been us. I still remember verbalizing how I could NEVER handle something that difficult. Little did I know, God had plans for my life to remind me of his strength and not my own.
On May 20, I went to work knowing it was my last week of school and was so excited for the summer. The day went on as usual. The severe weather threat was there but I never got too worked up over anything. After 3rd grade lunch duty, I checked in on the weather a bit but again didn’t stress. As the afternoon went on, I got a little more concerned. At 3:00 we went into tornado precautions and I carried out my role, checking on students and teachers. It wasn’t until I heard where the touchdown of the tornado was that I began to panic. I heard the path could be my children’s babysitter’s house. I begged The Lord, loudly, not to harm my children. Then I heard it passed south of that area. I was relieved. Next, I remember hearing the final call from Mike Morgan “If you are in Moore take cover now. If you are in the path of this storm and you are above ground, you are not safe.”
We took cover in our designated area, the office bathroom. I lowered my head under a pillow and prayed the Lord’s Prayer, said “Please don’t let me die”, and repeated the Lord’s Prayer. This process went on until part of the AC unit fell on my head. At that moment, with the tornado still hovering, I called my husband. I told him how much I loved him and the boys. He reassured me he would come find me and save me. The tornado took 3 minutes to totally and completely destroy my school. When I came out of the bathroom and witnessed the destruction, I was in disbelief. It’s one thing to see things on TV, it’s completely different to see your world completely destroyed.
The rest of the story is public. Our school was leveled and we lost 7 children. You’ve read it, watched it, heard it. That national story is my story of rescue. God physically saved my earthly body that day. And he continues to restore my heart from fear, depression, and anger. God’s mercy and grace carried me through the rest of the day and night into the weeks of mourning and funerals. As I attended each of my students’ funerals, I cried and hurt so deeply. Never could I have imagined I would watch 7 of my students buried in 8 days.
Through this experience, I am reminded of how much God loves us. As I often believed, I was not strong enough to handle really difficult situations. I was right. I alone can’t do it. He so evidently carries me. It’s so cliche to say “God doesn’t give us more than we can handle.” But yes, He does. He gives us His strength because I know without a doubt I could not keep going every day without His love.
So many people have reached out to my school, my families, and to me. I am blessed by my church family and my dear friends. I am so blessed by each of your prayers, “check-ins” and material items you have given me.
I told Doug a few months ago, during our new member meeting, that I was most excited about doing life together with this church. I had no idea what that would mean but I am so thankful God has brought us to this church for such a time as this.