Two Dozen Dead in Oklahoma Tornado—Why Are There Schools With No Shelters?

May 25, 2013 | Revolution Newspaper |


Twenty-four people were killed when a ferocious 200 mile-per-hour tornado hit the town of Moore, Oklahoma, on May 20. Nine of them were children, and seven of those children were in school at Plaza Towers Elementary School in Moore when the tornado destroyed the school.

Plaza Towers Elementary School had no tornado shelter. Administrators, teachers and students had over a half-hour warning that a tornado was approaching, but had nowhere safe to evacuate students. Under the circumstances, there were many acts of heroism—one teacher who is eight weeks pregnant wrapped several of her students in her arms to protect them when walls suddenly caved in. She was found unconscious, buried under piles of rubble. She was lifted out of the rubble, put in the back of a pickup truck and taken to a hospital with a fractured sternum and spine. A piece of rebar speared her left hand. It is unclear whether the students she was trying to save were among the survivors.

Cheers to Rebecca Vitsmun of Moore, Oklahoma

When the enormous tornado ripped through Moore, Oklahoma last week, Rebecca Vitsmun grabbed her 19-month-old son and fled her home moments before it was leveled by the raging storm.

CNN hack Wolf Blitzer interviewed Rebecca in front of the debris that was her home and said to her "'You're blessed. Brian your husband is blessed. Anders (the baby) is blessed. … We're happy you're here. You guys did a great job. I guess, you got to thank the Lord. Right? Do you thank the Lord, for that split second decision?"

Rebecca smiled as she replied to Blitzer, "I'm actually an atheist."

Barack Obama recently tweeted "Our prayers are with the people of Oklahoma today"; well over 75,000 people including many singers, actors, politicians and religious figures have tweeted with the hashmark "#PrayForOklahoma." People who survive a disaster such as the Oklahoma tornado are trained to say that a non-existent god was "looking out for them" if they survive—which can only mean that this supposed god wanted to see their neighbors dead.

So, props to Rebecca Vitsmun for bringing some reality to this situation, and for standing up for her—thoroughly correct—convictions.

One man who witnessed the destruction of the school said, "All you could hear were screams."

Cities and towns in Oklahoma are periodically hit with fierce tornados. And technology exists to provide effective shelter from these tornados. Northeastern State University campuses in Tahlequah and Broken Arrow have concrete, underground tornado vaults that serve as classrooms, but are used for shelter when tornado warnings are issued. And schools that were rebuilt in Moore after a tornado in 1999 do have storm shelters.

In the wake of the tragic deaths in Moore, there are many calls for building safe shelters in schools. "There should be a place that, if this ever happened again during school, that kids can get to a safe place," said Mikki Dixon Davis, whose 8-year-old son, Kyle, died at Plaza Towers.

The mayor of Moore told CNN that most of the schools in Oklahoma don't have a shelter because of the cost. The cost of a shelter in a school is between $600,000 and a million dollars.

Oklahoma Senator Tom Coburn is an all-around fascist who made opposition to gay rights and stem-cell research key campaign issues when he ran for Senate. During his 2004 Senate campaign, Coburn stated, "I favor the death penalty for abortionists" and he is on record for opposing abortion even in cases of rape or incest. Coburn opposes practically any governmental expenditure on people's needs, and while he is on the fascist end of the spectrum of mainstream politics, he and people like him are defining the agenda of the whole ruling class, including Obama—whose response to the dark ages morality and fascist rants of such forces is to "reach across the aisle" to accommodate them.

Coburn claimed—without factual evidence—that it was not clear that children at Plaza Towers Elementary would have survived even if they had had access to a shelter. And that "there's only so much we can do."

First of all—every school in a tornado zone needs to have a shelter built now.

And, in response to Senator Coburn—if in a society with as many resources as the United States, exposing school children and their teachers to the mercies of tornados, without building shelters in schools, is as much as you can do—then you and the capitalist ruling class you represent have no right to run, and no business running, society.

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