NORMAN — Facing tragedy, hardship and disaster is not new for the people of Oklahoma, especially those living in my hometown of Moore. While residents in my community lived through what seemed like a nightmare last week, our strength and resilience still shines brightly through the storm and radiates hope of full recovery.
Each house impacted by the horrific tornado last week represents a life and family uprooted. The ruthless storm leveled neighborhoods, injured residents and claimed 24 lives, including 10 precious children. While the area is unrecognizable and the losses are devastating, the community is still alive, strong and hopeful. Always united in good or bad times, the people of Oklahoma push through difficulties together and reveal selfless, strong communities to the rest of the world.
I must commend our state leaders, first responders and volunteers who have led and served our state with great skill, strength and compassion in this very challenging time. The exceptional leadership, dedication and poise of Gov. Mary Fallin is like none other. We are also grateful for the tireless efforts of Civil Emergency Director Albert Ashwood and local leaders like Moore Mayor Glenn Lewis, City Manager Steve Eddy and Oklahoma City Mayor Mick Cornett.
First responders deserve more thanks than words can describe. Thrown into a horrifically emotional scene requires strength and dedication beyond comprehension.
After suffering tragedy during the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995 and again during the great storm of 1999, the nation fittingly has a special place in its heart for our state. The same nationwide support system present in the past has opened once again during this disaster, and the response is overwhelming.
Colleagues on both sides of the aisle in the House extended their condolences and offered assistance in relief efforts. Speaker of the House John Boehner encouraged others to join him in sympathy for the people of Moore and the surrounding communities by ordering the flags at the Capitol to half-mast.
The entire Oklahoma delegation traveled to Moore on Tuesday to survey the damage and offer support to the hurting community, and Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano came on Wednesday to do the same. FEMA Director Craig Fugate also joined us in Moore to personally survey the damage and offer his sympathy and assistance.
Countless individuals and groups across the nation have led fundraising efforts, donated supplies, provided resources for recovery and showered us with prayer. Local community centers, churches and shelters have opened their doors to provide temporary housing and serve as food banks.
Immediately after hearing about the tragedy in our state last week, the president contacted me directly offering and issuing assistance from FEMA; the disaster declaration was issued that same evening. We welcomed the president to Oklahoma this Sunday as he lent his personal support, offered sympathy and thanked first responders. Both President Obama and Speaker Boehner continually assure us that, however severe the damage, Oklahoma will have everything needed to recover.
All of this reminds me that, in times of crisis, Americans of all parties and political points of view come together to help their fellow Americans. Though tested by heartbreaking circumstances, we will not lose heart in the Heartland. There is much to overcome, but we are not alone.
In the days and weeks ahead, my office will be doing everything we can to help those in need, comfort those who have lost family members and assist our local officials in getting the resources needed to recover and rebuild. This too shall pass.
U.S. Rep. Tom Cole, R-Moore, represents the Fourth Congressional District.