By Clay Horning
The Norman Transcript
NORMAN — Ever try seeing yourself as others see you, or your piece of the world as others see your piece of the world?
You know, if you could get others to see you, or if you could get other parts of the world to see your part of it?
Narcissism and inferiority, both, can trap us in front of a mirror, admiring or lamenting, pleased or not pleased by the vision we presumably offer others.
Yet, what’s happened over the last three days, since yet another deadly tornado rolled through Moore, offers an entirely different perspective.
Through strength or weakness, we may take an interest in how we project. But when the “Today Show” is broadcast from the rubble and the network evening news has placed its anchor amidst the carnage; and when the news channels descend upon the destruction and every newspaper in the country is playing your and your neighbors’ plight bigger than its own hometown news, it turns surreal.
Flip on the television and yes, it’s like watching yourself. Also, it’s like watching others watch you.
In seach of a story, I walked a circle around several square miles of the obliteration just hours after the twister had turned and torn though Moore. With an utter sense of awe perpetually in the way, it was oddly unemotional.
Now, it’s different.
When the mother, her hand on the shoulder of her grade-schooler in front of her, speaks matter-of-factly to CNN about how things are only things and this, too, shall pass, it gets to me.
When the news anchor speaks to the young man in the parking lot, gathering supplies for his family and others and then reports, once the camera was turned off, the young man asked him if he needed anything, it gets to me.
In the moments when the real story is told, the one about survival rather than death, about heroism rather than the politics of residential municipal code, it gets to me.
Because teachers really did lay their bodies over the children in their care, the better their skull be crushed by flying and falling debris than the children’s.
Because citizens really did begin to collect others from the rubble no sooner than they themselves emerged from it. Because, yes, government and first responders have come together to offer a clinic on how to best deal with such awful calamity and each other.
The questioning of the state’s senators’ and representatives’ plans or lack of them to vote consistently with positions previously taken in the wake of other disasters is completely reasonable, yet the bigger story isn’t political.
The great and amazing story is how far ahead of the game the community will already be when the real rebuilding begins.
It has to be in the wake of so many helping themselves and so many others, privately, helping without being asked to help. So many are laying the foundation for so many new foundations. Volunteers have been turned away because even a benevolent army can become too big to organize.
I’m tired of commentators I have previously agreed with creating a drama between culture and responsibility, as though there might have been no loss of life if only these hardheaded Oklahomans would lay down a couple of grand on a storm cellar.
It would make perfect sense if thousands had perished, a number plenty reasonable given the number of homes — more than 1,000 — destroyed. But thousands did not die.
The number remains 24, too many of them children, and still a stunningly small number given the swath and ferocity of the twister. Storm cellars or not, Oklahomans, hardheaded or not, know their way around a tornado. Drop it elsewhere and thousands might well have died.
So something simple and profound occurs to me as a I sit and watch so many stories unfold, as I find the emotion that wasn’t there when I was close enough to touch so much of it.
There is plenty of tragedy to go around, and there is unfairness on a seeming Biblical scale: Really, Moore again? Only it’s not what overcomes me.
What overcomes me?
I frequently find myself an uncommon Oklahoman. I don’t vote with the majority. Though a sports writer, I prefer the hardwood, diamond, pitch and links to the gridiron. I’m not very handy and the last gun I fired was filled with water.
These preferences now seem small.
I’ve spent the last couple of days watching the world watch us; watching us come together, watching us look out for each other; watching us look out for others even when there’s never been a more forgivable time to be selfish.
Nature has treated us unimaginably unjustly and I don’t begin to understand it. But as I watch the world watch us, I realize the world is getting us as at our most authentic.
It has to like what it sees.
Follow me @clayhorning