(From my first "Memories" book, originally blogged May 27, 2013)

I’ve been overseas for decades.

But last week, in an instant, I felt Oklahoma red dirt in my veins as Mother Nature’s fury destroyed Moore.

I was surprised and shaken by the intensity of emotions in my gut.

I felt terror and helplessness as I watched that damned Cat 5 tornado destroy a city no more than 10 minutes from where I grew up.

From the moment the twister hit, work deadlines at my public relations company in New Zealand just evaporated. I was glued to my laptop, watching the TV news in real time. 

The extent of the physical damage was sickening. The horror of so many lives lost was incomprehensible.

Over the hours, it pushed me into personal darkness. But I just couldn't stop watching the tragedy unfold.

For me, it was like 9/11, but more personal.  

I’d never been to the twin towers in New York City. But I was born and raised in Tornado Alley. This catastrophe smashed the city that shared my name.

Despite all the years away from home, it made me “get” my Okieness.

Somehow, immediately and innately, I understood that my people are different. They have a Dust Bowl history and twisters in their DNA.  

Okies are used to oil booms and busts, and having three seasons every year: Summer, Winter and Tornado.

Scary memories come flooding back from when I was maybe three or four, living at 851 Nebraska Street. 

Mom and Dad were huddled around the TV, chain-smoking and nervously flicking from channel 4 to 5 to 9, and listening to the static-y radio.

Were we in the usual Tornado Watch or a way more serious Tornado Warning, which meant a tornado had been spotted on the ground?  

If a Tornado Warning had been issued for Norman, were we at greater risk staying in our wood frame house? Or should we drive 10 minutes to Aunt Mackie’s house/tornado shelter on West 24th?

I remember when Dad ordered us to stand under the hallway door frame or,  worst of all, screamed “You kids get in the bathtub right now and pull the mattress over your heads!”

My fear was like a vice squeezing my little chest. When the nearby tornado siren went off, I thought we would die.

Thankfully, in all my childhood, we never saw a tornado coming at us.

But just because you didn’t see a twister didn’t mean you were safe. We all knew that.

When I was about 12 years old, we were caught in the Mother of all Hailstorms while driving on the highway. 

Hundreds of golf ball-sized hailstones smashed our car. The pounding would not stop. The sound was deafening. I thought the windshield was going to explode and cover us in a shower of glass.  

But by God’s grace, we found an overpass just in time, and squeezed our car underneath it, next to a bunch of others.

Fast forward to 2015 or so.

By then, my family had been living in New Zealand for more than two decades. I really missed Oklahoma’s hours-long thunderboomers, so I was thrilled to fly home for a visit in the Fall.  

I was at my sister Lynn’s house near Quinton when a bodacious thunderstorm started building. It thrilled me to death but was making my brother-in-law antsy as could be. I had no responsibilities, but he had to decide when to head to the cellar in the back yard.

We were outside watching the sky when a lightning bolt hit a nearby tree. It sounded like a bomb going off. My brother-in-law leaped three steps up onto the porch, and I let out a whoop in delight. How I loved thunder!

But it quickly turned serious when we spotted green cyclonic activity right over our heads. Then, because of the lightning, we could see a tail dropping out of the dark clouds. We dropped everything and ran to the cellar, because we were more afraid of what was above than any copperheads that might be in the cellar below.

Okie DNA

I’m convinced that the natural fear of killer tornadoes has been handed down from generation to generation through our Okie DNA. We all feel the same thing at the same time.

That’s why when that damned killer tornado tore through Moore, it was so personal

As I watched it unfold on my laptop in New Zealand, my aching knees could literally feel the barometric pressure dropping. My face could feel the stinging rain. I could hear a freight train overhead.

I was almost 8,000 miles from home and helpless to do anything. My heart was on the ground for my people as they got slaughtered.

The horrible news coverage went on and on, with every tragedy worse than the one before.

Then came the absolute worst tragedy of all, when the tornado knocked a brick wall onto the children at Plaza Towers Elementary School. I felt like I was covered in the rubble, right next to those babies.

Oh Lord, Lord, Lord.

Over the next few days, the awful news just kept coming, and the black dog of depression started to bite me.

But, ever so slowly, my spirit started to lift. Then I started to see light. Finally I laughed and started to feel proud.

My heart was filled to bursting by the overwhelming response from Oklahomans looking after each other. They came from everywhere in the State, and from neighboring states to help.

My vet-tech niece drove straight from her clinic in Arkansas to care for hundreds of dogs and cats that were running the streets, lost and terrified.

I laughed out loud when I saw a house that only had one wall standing. And on that wall, a true Okie had spray-painted: "Tornado, you hit like a girl."

When I thought I was all cried out, I watched Blake Shelton's "Healing in the Heartland" concert.

I wept long and hard, right along with Miranda and the 14,000 Okies in the audience. In fact, I bet there wasn’t a dry eye in the State of Oklahoma.

Honestly, it was all a revelation to me. I had been gone so long, that I was shocked to feel what was all stirred up inside by the damn Moore tornado.

Over and over in my mind I kept hearing, "Sooner born and Sooner bred, and when I die I'll be Sooner dead."

In the following weeks and months, the impact of the tornado didn’t go away. It has deeply affected me.

I've found myself praying more often, and harder, for the poor people who lost everything. In truth, I have not prayed and cried so much since my Mom died.

I have been especially grief-stricken by the parents who lost their babies under the bricks. The enormity of their loss, of our loss as Oklahomans, has had an unexpected effect on me. 

At least for now, I've stopped grumbling about things that, even two weeks ago, seemed so big and bad; things like petty family arguments and money worries.

Instead, I find myself praying in thanksgiving for having a good home, because I am so very aware that thousands of people like me don't even have a roof over their heads anymore.

I’m enormously thankful that my only child is safe and sound, playing his music on a cruise ship in Alaska, at a time when so many families in Moore are burying their babies.

And, after so many years away from Oklahoma, I'm thankful for being from a state where people roll up their shirt sleeves right now when tragedy strikes and they help their neighbors. Because that's how we were raised. That's what we do. That’s who we are.

Lord have mercy.

#tornado #oklahomaweather #twister #valonthegetner #normantornado #MEMORIESOFANOKIEBOOMER


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Amazon Reviews


Just finished reading your book. I was laughing out loud so much my husband asked what was I reading! And I kept thinking, “Bless his mom's heart”! My dad also read it and said he found it delightful. Looking forward to the second book. Thanks for the entertainment!

2 years ago


Fun and great read!!! If you grew up in the 60 and 70 you will be able to relate to many fun stories the author tells!
Bill Moore is a very talented and entertaining author with a great sense of humor! I highly recommend this book!!!

2 years ago
Susan B.
Susan B.

Couldn’t put it down. A total joy to read.

The author was a classmate of mine in high school, and is still a great Facebook friend. I knew this book would be awesome b/c of the way Bill writes his posts on Facebook telling his friends of his life in New Zealand. This book touched my heart in soo many ways. Bills writing is so descriptive, that in your mind you see what he’s writing about or transports you to the place. I couldn’t put it down. Bill, thank you for letting me go back to my days of innocence as a child in Norman, Oklahoma.

2 years ago

Having known the author all our lives I expected nothing less than stellar from him and he does not disappoint. It brought smiles and loud guffaws as I tripped down memory lane with him. It was so much more personal to me as I knew the characters in the book but all will enjoy reminiscing about that magical time in Norman . Give it a read you wont be disappointed!

5 years ago

I think anyone who grew up around the 1960s will enjoy this trip down memory lane!

5 years ago

Bill Moore, Writer

Norman-born Bill Moore spent four decades as a newspaper reporter and P.R. guy, writing at least 900 gazillion words in Texas, Washington, D.C., Singapore and New Zealand.
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