NORMAN — The “Oklahoma Standard” was a term coined during our state’s response to the tragedy of April 19, 1995. The connotation has many layers: the standard of trained first responders, the standard of non-trained first responders (neighbors helping neighbors), the standard of our faith community and the standard of welcoming out-of-state relief workers who arrived to help. In short, meeting the need and answering the call without reservation or inhibition.
The Oklahoma Standard has manifested itself time and time again. Most recently, the standard was exhibited during our statewide storms. From May 19 to May 31, Oklahoma received some horrific, violent and enormous tornadic activity. Some reports indicated the most ever registered.
As lieutenant governor, my role was to assist our citizens, assess the damage and communicate to our people and the world necessary information. While I represented Oklahoma to various media outlets, I tried to maintain a central message: The damage was/is horrific, the rebuilding has begun and Oklahoma is a great state because of our people. In other words, the Oklahoma Standard is alive and strong.
During the tornadoes, heroes were familiar faces. Meteorologists warned of deadly storms. Classroom teachers sheltered their students with their own bodies. Students sang “Jesus Loves Me” and “He’s got the Whole World in His Hands” as the tornadoes approached.
Professional basketball players donated money, college coaches and athletes provided sweat and labor. Sooners helped Cowboys. Cowboys assisted Sooners. Southern Baptists personified a faith-based FEMA. People helped others they did not know. Every trained and educated professional from law enforcement to medicine went above and beyond the call. Everyone acted like Oklahomans.
Adversity reveals true character. During these storms, we lost lives that cannot be replaced. We received scars that will not heal. We also showed others what is to be an Oklahoman. Faith, family and neighbors. We illustrated what it is to live lives that care about others.