Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Tornado: Part Four

Thursday was the first day we were allowed to get back into our schools.  The district had arranged for each school to have an "open house" from 10:00-12:00 so that students could return to get their personal items, return textbooks, and see their friends.  Special arrangements were worked out for the students, teachers, and staff from Briarwood and Plaza Towers elementary schools to meet at either Wayland Bonds or Eastlake elementaries.

Throughout the evening before and early Thursday morning I received a variety of questions through a couple of Facebook pages and tweet accounts I operate for school business regarding how to get to Southmoore with roads being closed.  The only way that anyone would be able to get to Southmoore would be to find some eastern or western route to get south of the school and then to travel north on Santa Fe.
Southmoore is a ALIVE and WELL
Teachers arrived at 9:00 for a local faculty meeting.  While most of us had seen each other at yesterday's district-wide faculty meeting, as well as during our school specific break-out meeting, it was still a significant time of encouragement for each other.  One of our staff members lost her son at Plaza Tower.  Seven of our teachers/staff members had their homes totally destroyed and/or significantly damaged and many others had close family members impacted.  We talked about issues with getting final grades posted, especially since the district's internet connections and phone lines were still down.  A link to use at home was provided on Wednesday but many were having issues with it; some troubleshooting ideas were shared.
Faculty meeting in Southmoore media center
Then we were dismissed to greet our students!! This time started out with me being in my classroom.  Anita, the PTSA & Band mom I discussed in "Tornado: Part Three", and her son Timothy stopped by.  I gave them each big hugs to reassure them that we were there to support them and love them.  A couple of other students stopped by in the early minutes of this "open house" time and then an announcement was made over the intercom system.  A study initiated and student led prayer circle was being held in our commons area and everyone was invited to attend.  As I was heading out of my classroom, one of my Buddhist students commented the guessed he would go to the prayer circle even though he wasn't a Christian.  I smiled and reminded him that God hears prayers from people of all faiths.  He smiled in return and you could tell this was more about embracing a sense of unity and community among the students so impacted by this horrible event than it was about promoting any form of religious dogma.

Due to the small number of students who had come by my room I was totally caught off guard by how many students had already begun circling around the commons for this prayer circle.  Teachers, staff, and parents began coming out of the hallways to join them.  Due to the size of the space and the vast quantity of people, the student who had been selected to lead the large public prayer opted to return to the office so as to speak over the intercom.  It truly was a moment about community spirit!

Since most of the students were now downstairs and in the commons, that is where I remained for the rest of the "open house" time.  I stood near a central table so that student had a centralized location for turning in textbooks even if they couldn't find their specific teacher. "Don't worry, we'll get it checked in for you".  Also, as I saw students from my specific classes I let them know that today I had a policy of "Everyone Gets a Hug", a it seemed like they all wanted one too.  You could tell that their spirits were so shaken by the events earlier in the week that this ability to see friends and teachers along with hugs and other expressions of encouragement were exactly what they needed.  And I have to admit that I needed it too.  Afterall, during the chaos of Monday I was only with one group of my students.  Today allowed me to visually see nearly all of my students so as to truly know that they were safe.
Kari, Marrisa, Lyndsey, Sarah, Mr. Burton, Hunter, & Michaela

Griffin, Daniel, Nhi, Sungwon, Bao, Mr. Burton, Peter,
Lynn, Monica, Sang, Bryan, Maddie, & Anco
An additional special moment which helped to give a sense of normalcy to being at Southmoore was when students from our band's drumline lined up on the landing of our grand staircase to perform several drum chants.  At various times throughout the year we have drumline in between Fifth and Sixth periods as a mini-pep rally before a big football or basketball game or to help encourage a team heading off to a state tournament.  Drumline today helped to show that WE ARE SOUTHMOORE and our spirit is not broken!


  1. Thanks for sharing your story, and the power of community. So glad Southmoore was able to come together for much needed support. Hugs!

    1. Jennifer, the love and support of so many of you from outside of Oklahoma are also a major help to helping to overcome this disaster. You are loved!!

  2. Rock on drum line!