Hours in the Shelter, But We’re OK.

My wonderful husband, watching the storms on my computer. He's claustrophobic, so he sits on the stairs with the lid open. Copyright Rebecca Hamilton. All Rights Reserved.

My wonderful husband, watching the storms on my computer. He’s claustrophobic, so he sits on the stairs with the lid open. Copyright Rebecca Hamilton. All Rights Reserved.

Okies are kind to one another when disaster strikes. That’s what makes these things bearable. It’s also what allows us to rebuild and go on.

We spent several hours in the storm shelter last night. We went into the shelter, then came back out, and as the second wave of storms moved in, went back down again.

Mama and Me. Copyright Rebecca Hamilton, All Rights Reserved.

Mama and Me. Copyright Rebecca Hamilton, All Rights Reserved.

Mama was perfect the whole time. My husband just lifted her down into the shelter, and she was calm and trusting with him. She never complained and did what I told her to do without issue.

I picked her up early from her adult day care center. While I was driving her home, she talked mindlessly, as she does. I asked her to be quiet, simply because I was nervous about the storms and the constant chatter was difficult. She immediately shut up. (That’s kind of a miracle. :-) )

Mama doesn't like the light from my iPhone. Copyright Rebecca Hamilton, All Rights Reserved.

Mama doesn’t like the light from my iPhone. Copyright Rebecca Hamilton, All Rights Reserved.

It wasn’t a fun evening. But we came through just fine.

We were exchanging storm stories this morning. By that I mean everyone, everywhere I went. People were extra courteous, extra kind, extra helpful to other people.

Odd as it sounds, these things bind Okies together.

They say there are more storms coming in the next days. When they come, we’ll be ready.

 

 

Some Things, You Don’t Forget.

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by Joseph Novak https://www.flickr.com/photos/josephleenovak/

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by Joseph Novak https://www.flickr.com/photos/josephleenovak/

Sunday was the 20th anniversary of the Oklahoma City bombing.

I wasn’t going to mention it on this blog, but I’ve decided that I should. I remember that day as if it just happened. Some things, you don’t forget.

 

Rep David Dank was My Friend. His Funeral is Today.

Photo Source: Oklahoma House of Representatives File Photo.

Photo Source: Oklahoma House of Representatives File Photo.

Oklahoma’s elderly lost a key supporter in the Oklahoma legislature last Friday. Representative David Dank died in his home of an apparent heart attack. His funeral is today.

David and I were friends for 35 years. In all that time, he never told me a lie. He was always someone I could turn to for help.

David was a principled legislator who saw corruption and tried to end it and who stood unfailingly for the needs of elderly people. A few weeks ago, a friend of mine asked me if I was worried about what would happen to the Adult Day Care program here in Oklahoma without me in the legislature to defend it.

“David’s there,” I said. “He’ll take care of it.”

Now, with David gone, I fear for the program, and for all programs that help elderly people in this state.

David’s wife Odelia was a former legislator herself. A few years back, Odelia was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. David took care of Odelia through the hard times of that illness.

I remember once I was walking into the capital as David was rushing out. I called hello to him across the oval.

“I can’t talk now,” he said. “Delia fell.”

I’ll never forget how upset he was on that day, or how sad he was as her disease progressed toward its inevitable end. He took care of Odelia while he fought the good fight against corrupt practices in the legislature. That was heroic for anyone, but David was not exactly a spring chicken himself at the time.

We had lunch with a group of friends last December. He talked about Odelia a lot during that lunch. At one point he said that all he wanted was to follow Jesus and be as good a person as he could so that when he died he could go be with Odelia.

The last time I saw David was a few weeks ago. I stopped in at St Joe’s for noon mass. David went to mass there every day, so it wasn’t a surprise to see him, sitting in his usual place in a pew on the back row.

I scooted into a seat beside him, and we attended mass together. After mass was over, when we were heading out on our separate ways, he reached out and hugged me and kissed me on the cheek.

“Bye Darlin’,” he said, “I’ll see you later.”

 

OU President Boren: Racist Chant was Taught to Students at National Fraternity Leadership Training

Photo Source: Wikimedia Commons by Phil Constantin, open source

Photo Source: Wikimedia Commons by Phil Constantin, open source

University of Oklahoma President David Boren announced at a press conference today that the racist chant members of the SAE fraternity were singing in a video that was released earlier this month was taught to local fraternity members during a leadership cruise sponsored by the national organization four years ago.

The chant had become a standard part of the pledge recruitment and initiation process. It was routinely taught to new members. The report said that the chant was part of the “institutional culture” of the fraternity.

Levi Pettit, one of two students who were expelled for singing the chant on the video, participated in a press conference with state Senator Anastasia Pittman and leaders in the Oklahoma City black community, including several prominent black pastors. He apologized for his participation in the chant and expressed deep remorse because of what he had done. Representative Mike Shelton addressed the House of Representatives about the video soon after it first aired.

Hopefully the national leadership of this fraternity will be held accountable at some point.

You can read the complete report here.

From News9.com:

NORMAN, Oklahoma -University of Oklahoma President David Boren has announced the findings of an investigation into a fraternity after members were caught on video engaging in a racist chant.

President Boren held a news conference at noon on Friday. According to the University, the origin of the chant was that it was learned by local chapter members on a national leadership cruise sponsored by the national organization of SAE four years ago. Overtime, the chant was formalized in the local SAE chapter and was taught to pledges as part of the formal and informal pledgeship process.

According to the University, prior to the chapter’s annual Chapter’s Founder’s Day event on March 7, there was alcohol available at the fraternity house, and there is evidence that a significant number of members were consuming alcohol prior to boarding the bus on which the chant was sung.

Tornadoes in Oklahoma and Lucky Me, I was There

Cell phones change everything, including the experience of taking shelter during a tornado.

Last night, while we sat in our storm shelter in Oklahoma City, my husband exchanged texts with his best friend who was a hundred miles away in Sand Springs. His friend was also in a storm shelter.

Okies.

We know tornadoes.

A wave of storms swept through the state yesterday, sending a lot of us into shelters. These weren’t the huge killer tornadoes that come down and stay down for long periods of time, taking out whole communities. They were the hop, skip and jump tornadoes that happen any number of times in this state every single year.

I underestimated these storms from the start. Yesterday was the first day in almost two weeks  that I felt well enough to go out to eat. We went to our fav Mexican food place, where we go every Wednesday. They know us so well that they don’t bother to bring us menus. The waiter already knows what we want.

One of the waiters was twitchy about the incoming storms. He and I had both been watching them on radar on our phones. “I think Tulsa is going to get it,” I told him, “but we’ll be alright.”

So much for me as a weather prophet.

My husband decided to put gas in his car, so, on the way home, he pulled into a gas station around the block from our house. We’d been watching the clouds on the drive home. As we pulled to a stop, I noticed a change. I watched as one of the clouds started to turn; to, as the weather guys say, “rotate.”

“That thing’s starting to spin,” I said.

I think my husband’s view was blocked by a post in front of our car. He glanced up, saw nothing and got out to get the gas.

His view must’ve changed when he was standing beside the car, because a moment later he got back in and started the engine. “I can get gas tomorrow. We need to get home.”

It was a short drive to our house, literally around the corner. But as we turned into the drive, the wind hit, bending over the pear tree in the front yard. That tree had been a poofy cloud of white blossoms. As  we drove into the garage, the wind stripped those blooms, blowing the petals into the garage ahead of us, littering the concrete floor with white.

We got in the shelter, and the rest, as they say, is rock and roll.

This particular tornado hit about six blocks from our house. The damage it did can be repaired and no one was killed. There was another small tornado — or maybe this same one, touching down again, a bit further south of us that tossed around vehicles and shaved off the roofs of houses.

The people of Sand Springs and Tulsa got hit with a stronger tornado that did heavier damage and killed one person.

Tornadoes like these happen several times a year, every year, in Oklahoma. They’re different from the huge tornadoes that come along less often. They certainly can and do kill people. A direct hit from a small tornado will destroy your home and kill you. But their killing power is limited to smaller areas and tends to be somewhat capricious.

These little tornadoes go up and down. They are unpredictable. They can form in minutes and vanish in a second.

That is what we were dealing with last night. The warning on a big tornado can give you enough time to get into shelter. But these smaller tornadoes happen fast.

The weather reports had predicted storms, and we could track the overall storm pattern on radar. But the only specific warning we had last night was when I looked up at that cloud and saw it start to turn. If I hadn’t spent a lifetime looking at these things, I wouldn’t have known what I was seeing.

That’s what makes smaller tornadoes dicey. The local weather people, even with all their tornado spotters and radar, mostly tell you about small tornados shortly after they’ve hit. A small tornado can dip down, flatten your house and go back up, leaving the house across the street covered in debris from your house, with the car that was in the drive tossed aside, but otherwise untouched. Then it can come back down and flatten a whole block two streets down.

The irony here is that the thing can kill you just as dead as one of the big ones like the tornado of May 3, 1999. Thanks to our excellent tornado alert system, I watched on tv as what we call “the May third tornado” formed in Apache Oklahoma. I watched it as it stayed down and plowed 100 miles across the prairie to my neighborhood.

I didn’t watch as it continued on through Del City and back out across the prairie to Stroud. I was too busy ducking.

Big tornadoes usually give more warning than little ones. In fact, little tornadoes don’t give warning at all. They are more survivable, and they do not usually cause the total destruction of whole communities. But they can spin up and drop down in a minute. I mean that literally.

I found a spider in the storm shelter last night, which means it needs de-bugging, and not in the computer sense. I also realized that we need to buy flashlights and put them in there. Also bottled water. And maybe a horn or something we can use to get help if the worst happens and we get trapped because our house has fallen on top the shelter.

After the storm passed, I went into an exhausted, totally washed out mode. It was like the experience sucked all the life out of me.

I didn’t realize it, but I’m still not over the big tornado from two years ago. That one killed a lot of people, destroyed a whole community, took out a hospital and flattened two schools. It killed 8 school children in the process.

The rebuilding hasn’t been completely finished from that tornado. I see foundations with no houses when I drive my Mama around in the afternoons. The hospital will be rebuilt, but it hasn’t been yet. The grieving for lost loved ones is on-going.

I guess that’s why this experience last night left me so tired and dispirited. Also, I’m still not entirely well from this cold/flu thing I’ve had. That may have made it worse. All I know is that I usually take these things matter of factly, but last night I reacted with exhaustion, that, and I’m glad we have that shelter.

Mama was prattling to me later in the evening, and I realized that she had forgotten the entire thing. She had no idea there had even been a storm, much less a tornado. Her dementia had wiped it away.

There are times when forgetting is a blessing.

 

Levi Pettit, OKC Black Leaders Hold Press Conference About Racist Video

Senator Anastasia Pittman Oklahoma State Senate File Photo

Senator Anastasia Pittman Oklahoma State Senate File Photo

Levit Pettit, one of the two young men who were expelled from Oklahoma University for their participation in singing a racist song at a fraternity gathering, apologized at a press conference this afternoon.

Senator Anastasia Pittman and other leaders in the Oklahoma City black community, including prominent members of the clergy, joined him at this press conference. At one point, one of the black community leaders reached out to pat him on the back while he was speaking.

Senator Pittman ended the press conference by saying that she and the community leaders who were with her wanted this event to lead to a growth in understanding and greater interracial harmony.

I am proud of and grateful to our Oklahoma City black community for the noble and loving way that they have handled this situation. These Christian leaders have shown us the positive way that true Christian leadership can function. Senator Pittman has demonstrated the best in what an elected official can contribute to her community.

They have shown us the healing power of forgiveness.

You can watch a video of the press conference with Senator Pittman’s comments here.

This is a video of the press conference. It does not contain Senator Pittman’s comments, which I regret. Her words about using this incident to bring us together are important.

YouTube Preview Image

From KFOR.com:

OKLAHOMA CITY, Okla. – Former OU student Levi Pettit issued an apology this afternoon, weeks after a cellphone video showing him participating in a racist chant went viral.

20-year-old Pettit is accused of participating in the racist chant along with other Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity members.

“Let me start by saying that I am sorry… Although I don’t deserve it, I want to ask for your forgiveness,” began Pettit.

Pettit, flanked on both sides by local leaders in the black community, gave his apology after meeting and speaking with Oklahoma Senator Anastasia Pittman, civic leaders, and local pastors about the incident.

“There are no excuses for my behavior. I never considered myself a racist,” said Pettit. “All the apologies in the world won’t change what I’ve done.”

Pettit and his family have reportedly spoken with Senator Pittman several times since the video was made public on March 9th.

 

Rep Mike Shelton: OU Racist Video the Action of ‘A Few Ignorant Individuals’

Oklahoma House of Representatives File Photo

Oklahoma House of Representatives File Photo

Representative Mike Shelton gave a powerful speech about the video of University of Oklahoma fraternity members singing a racist song.

It’s particularly pertinent in this season of Lent.

YouTube Preview Image

Here’s the Racist University of Oklahoma Fraternity Video

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by xploitme https://www.flickr.com/photos/45928872@N08/

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by xploitme https://www.flickr.com/photos/45928872@N08/

The racist University of Oklahoma fraternity video that’s been in the news is below.

The video was released by the campus group Unheard. Unheard is working to increase African American presence at OU. They sent a 12-page letter of grievances to OU’s President Boren earlier. President Boren said that he agreed with most of the grievances. He was already working with Unheard to implement many of their suggestions before the video surfaced.

The University of Oklahoma has a long-standing divide between “the Greeks” and “independent” students. The Greeks are, in many ways, a separate university, and a law unto themselves.

I don’t believe this video reflects the attitudes of most of the larger student body or faculty at OU. However, it clearly reflects the attitudes of this fraternity. Also, African Americans are underrepresented in the university student body and faculty. I believe that is what President Boren is working with Unheard to change.

Sigma Alpha Epsilon’s national leadership closed the OU chapter.  I hope that, in addition to facilitating the reforms which Unheard is advocating, President Boren will consider a thorough investigation into the Greek system at OU.

Here’s the video.

YouTube Preview Image

Money Talks, Facts Walk in Oklahoma’s Three Horse Economy.

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by Kool Cats Photography https://www.flickr.com/photos/katsrcool/

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by Kool Cats Photography https://www.flickr.com/photos/katsrcool/

Oklahoma has a three-horse economy. Here it is in three words:

Agriculture.

Military bases.

Oil.

If you closed down those military bases and lowered the price of crude, Oklahoma’s three horse economy would dry up and blow away like a tumbleweed, bouncing before the wind.

Oklahoma has been riding the crest of an oil boom for years now. This has led to policy decisions at the capitol which will be disastrous for Oklahoma’s people in the long run. The reason they will be disastrous is that these decisions were based on the fantasy that Oklahoma’s current prosperity is a reflection of the genius of lawmakers and their half-brained policy decisions rather than the price of the black gold that comes out of Oklahoma’s red dirt.

Okies don’t like things that hurt the oil industry because the oil industry is the plate that everyone in the state feeds off of in one way or another. Not everyone is black gold rich. But just about every paycheck that gets cashed is related in some way to agriculture, military bases or oil.

You don’t bite the hand that feeds you. The dumbest dog in the kennel knows that.

That’s the reason why the Oklahoma State Geological Survey has been oh-so-quiet about the cause of all those confounding earthquakes that have been shake-rattle-and-rolling the state in recent years. There’s a link between the broken glass from those quakes and the hand that feeds us. In fact, it appears that the hand that feeds us is also the hand that is rocking the earth we stand on.

There seems to be a link between all these Okie earthquakes and fracking. Fracking is a practice of the oil industry, one that makes it more profitable and that adds $$$ to Oklahoma’s money bins, both private and public. We’ve got an oil boom and an earthquake boom and it appears that one of them is causing the other. It also seems that the industry that puts food on our collective table and jingle-jangle in our pockets is rocking and rolling the foundations on which our homes are built.

I’ve read concerns that all these little quakes are building up to a big boy that will really do damage. If that happens, Oklahoma will be in the national news again. It seems that we never get noticed unless we are bombed, beheaded or blown away. If we end up rubble-ized by an earthquake shakedown, I imagine we’ll get noticed again.

A couple of years ago after one of our killer tornadoes, the national media wondered why Okies don’t build more storm shelters. They raised the legitimate question as to why we don’t have storm shelters in our schools. The legislature was unable to address these significant concerns that relate to the public health and safety because of pressure from the Chamber of Commerce, who, as anyone who knows anything about Oklahoma politics is aware, runs Oklahoma state government.

Now, it appears that somebody (any guesses who???) has been deep-sixing scientific data linking our earthquake boom (pun intended) to our oilies. I don’t need a psychic to know who’s going to win this argument.

When you’ve got a three-horse economy, you don’t shoot one of the horses.

From Newsweek:

For years, the Oklahoma Geological Survey (OGS) avoided acknowledging that Oklahoma’s dramatic increase in earthquakes had anything to do with the oil and gas industry, even while federal scientists fully acknowledged the link.

According to new reporting from EnergyWire, OGS’s reluctance to point fingers may have been due to the industry itself.

In 2012, U.S. Geological Survey officials said that a step in the hydraulic fracturing process—the disposal of vast volumes of salty, chemical-laced wastewater by injecting it deep into the ground—was related to the massive spike in Oklahoma earthquakes. OGS, however, responded by criticizing their “rush to judgment.”

“Since early 2010 we have recognized the potential for the Jones earthquake swarm to be due to the Hunton dewatering [oil and gas project],” Austin Holland, an OGS seismologist wrote to USGS science adviser Bill Leith in 2013, according to documents obtained by EnergyWire. “But until we can demonstrate that scientifically or not we were not going to discuss that publicly.”

According to EnergyWire, Holland was called into meetings with his boss, University of Oklahoma President David Boren, and oil executives, to discuss the link.

From StateImpact:

Despite long-held suspicions that the state’s earthquake surge was linked to oil and gas activity, the Oklahoma Geological Survey stayed silent amid pressure from oil company executives, EnergyWire reports.

For this and other interviews, State Seismologist Austin Holland acknowledges “intense personal interest” from energy company executives, but told reporter Mike Soraghan it never affected his scientific findings:

But Holland and OGS have been the voice of skepticism in the scientific community about connections between oil production activities and the hundreds of earthquakes that have shaken the state.

From grist:

Oklahoma has been experiencing an earthquake boom in recent years. In 2014, the state had 585 quakes of at least magnitude 3. Up through 2008, it averaged only three quakes of that strength each year. Something odd is happening.

But scientists at the Oklahoma Geological Survey have downplayed a possible connection between increasing fracking in the state and the increasing number of tremors. Even as other states (Ohio, for example) quickly put two and two together and shut down some drilling operations that were to blame, OGS scientists said that more research was needed before their state took similar steps.

Now, though, emails obtained by EnergyWire reporter Mike Soraghan reveal that the University of Oklahoma and its oil industry funders were putting pressure on OGS scientists to downplay the connection between earthquakes and the injection of fracking wastewater underground. In 2013, a preliminary OGS report noted possible correlation between the two, and OGS signed on to a statement by the U.S. Geological Survey that also noted such linkages.

 

Rep Kern Gets Ban on Bans of Gay Conversion Therapy Out of Committee

Representative Sally Kern. Photo Source: Oklahoma House of Representatives.

Representative Sally Kern. Photo Source: Oklahoma House of Representatives.

Representative Sally Kern got her bill banning bans on gay conversion therapy out of committee.

HB 1598 passed without debate on a unanimous vote after a committee substitute was accepted, also on a unanimous vote.

It now goes to the full House, where it may or may not come to a vote. For an explanation of the process, go here.

If it does come to a vote, we may get to see some entertaining debate.

From The Daily Oklahoman:

A bill that seeks to protect the practice of gay conversion counseling passed out of an Oklahoma House committee Tuesday.

House Bill 1598, which now goes to the full House, says the state will not prohibit or restrict counseling intended to rid people of attraction to those of their own gender. It also seeks to protect parents who want such counseling for their children.

Nothing prevents this type of counseling now, but Rep. Sally Kern, R-Oklahoma City, said her bill is needed because the practice is under attack legislatively in other states.

“All across the nation, bills are being introduced to ban parents from having the right to take their children for counseling if they are struggling with same-sex attractions,” Kern said. “As you know, we do lots of bills that are pre-emptive, so this is pre-emptive to make sure that parental rights are upheld.”

Gay rights advocates and others vehemently opposed the bill, saying conversion therapy has been harmful to children, including leading to anxiety, depression, shame, guilt and, potentially, drug abuse and suicide.


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