May 27, 2011

City hit by tornado:

Be confident – we are pioneer people

— When we look back at our Oklahoma history and those who settled here in the late 1800s, we must say that they were a hardy people.

Joining Native Americans were many immigrants, people who were looking for a better tomorrow.

These people were self sufficient, tough, and ready to take on challenges. These people understood the elements and that helping their neighbors was as important as sustaining themselves.

Our descendants were mostly pioneer people and the natives who define Oklahoma. This ancestry defines the people of Chickasha.

At first I had watched the tornado of May 24, 2011, from my front porch. I was alarmed by the possible destruction and havoc.

Within minutes I was at the fire station No. 2 command center. Everyone was already in place. This included Steve Chapman, our emergency management coordinator, and fire and rescue and police personnel.

My role was to be available if needed but to let the professionals do their jobs. They had planned, practiced, and they understood the situation and the needs of our community.

I witnessed via radio our dedicated first responders utilizing their expertise to respond as the community asked for help.

The Chickasha police and fire departments took the lead. Also evident were other city personnel such as our 911 dispatchers, community development and clerical staff, the office of the city clerk, and many others responding to those in need.

Within two hours, all stricken properties had been searched and the injured had been evacuated and were receiving medial treatment. The beginnings of a clean up had begun.

Early that evening, along with our new city manager, Stewart Fairburn, we witnessed the damage first hand.

Traffic control was an issue and we will later evaluate how we can better address this problem. I understand that people wanted to see what was happening, but we must think of our first responders and those in need.

Oklahoma people care and we will have to work on how to be helpful.

However, it was evident that people in Chickasha and that Oklahomans were helping each other.

We saw that historic pioneer spirit. Churches almost immediately opened their doors and surrounding communities sent their first responders.

The Chickasha Square was filled with trained personal from all over southwest Oklahoma who were just asking, “Where can we be of help?”  In particular, Anadarko fire and police personnel were in our community in full force. Tragedy has hit their community in recent years. They were here to perhaps return a favor. Simply neighbors helping each other, pioneer people.

I will always remember the loss of one of our own, Laron Short, 24, who lost her life in Watsons Mobile Home Park.

I knew Laron as she was a reporter for one of our local papers. I was a judge at USAO when she competed in a project. Her death feels personal to me.

Governor Mary Fallin examined our area on Wednesday and we went to the spot where Laron was killed.

I am honored that our governor cared so much to visit our community and I am thinking what could we have done differently to help spare Laron’s life?  That is the thought process of many public officials. What can we do to keep people safe?

I have received many calls about our community and the needs that challenge us. We should be confident about our future. We understand the makeup of our community and the DNA of our ancestry.

Our community will pray for the loss of life and the injured.

Property will be repaired or replaced. Neighbors will help neighbors. We are pioneer people. We will be just fine.

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