Once more, all eyes in San Antonio are on Oklahoma City. A city and state ravaged by tornadoes over the years is now struggling to come to terms with Monday’s devastating F4 twister that left dozens dead, hundreds injured and untold property damage when it tore through the southern suburb of Moore and other surrounding communities.
When Oklahomans talk about tornadoes, the conversation starts or quickly turns to “May 3.” No year, just May 3.
Almost everyone remembers: For four days in May, 1999, a severe weather system spawned tornadoes over five states. On May 3, a deadly F5 tornado swept through southern Oklahoma City, including the same suburb of Moore, struck so hard yesterday. The tornado left 36 dead and more than $1 billion in property damage.
This is the same city that suffered the worst act of domestic terrorism in U.S. history on April 19, 1995 when Timothy McVeigh and his paranoid anti-government confederates set off a bomb in front of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building, killing 168 people, injuring 680 more, damaging hundreds of buildings and causing nearly $700 million in property losses.
One year ago, life seemed so much simpler. The San Antonio Spurs were pursing another NBA championship, enroute to Oklahoma City to play the Thunder. One local newspaper columnist here attempted to humorously and unfavorably compare Oklahoma City to San Antonio, which led me to write this May 29 story: Way More than OK: Oklahoma City is a City to Embrace, Not Bash.
Readers interested in learning more about how a visionary Oklahoma City mayor rallied people to invest in the downtown, beginning more than two decades ago, and what people there have built and accomplished in that time, should read the story. It’s evidence that what San Antonio is attempting to accomplish in its SA2020 initiative, while ambitious, is achievable.
The story hit a nerve. Many readers were as uncomfortable as I with a playoff putdown of a city that has surmounted so much in the last two decades. The story remains the Rivard Report’s most widely read story in a single day and the second most widely story of the more than 600 stories published in our brief 15-month history.
I believe now, as I believed then, that Oklahoma City’s 21-year drive to build a better downtown to attract creative people eager to live and work there represents one of the best examples for San Antonio to follow. A tornado, no matter how devastating, can’t change that. Oklahoma City will somehow find a way, as it always has, to recover from tragedy, mourn its losses, and move forward.
This season, the road to another possible championship will not take the Spurs to Oklahoma, but there are plenty of other reasons for San Antonio to remember our rivals to the north on I-35 are also our neighbors and right now they need our help.
Readers who want to help can go to the Oklahoma American Red Cross site and donate online, or to the San Antonio Red Cross site and designate your donation for the Oklahoma tornado victims. Your gift is sure to help as local officials send staff, volunteers, and yes, cash, to the affected families caught in the tornado’s path.