Tag Archives: survivor’s guilt


Photo Credit: Jenn Tylbon

Photo Credit: Jenn Tylbon

With wide swaths of Oklahoma in pieces, I feel weird. Relatively speaking, I was physically unaffected. I can safely say I’m getting real tired of that burn in your throat the develops as you choke back tears, so I’m not emotionally exempt but my house (apartment) still stands. Bryan’s old house, while slightly damaged and will likely need a new roof,  escaped the worst of it. Our mementos and things are safe and sound. Thousands of others across the state cannot say the same thing after two days of tornadoes swept across the landscape.

Tuesday,  Bryan and I inched back into Moore to retrieve the greater part of his earthly possessions. We had already decided to move him into my place this weekend. Mother Nature had different ideas. I’m choosing to believe that this is her way of saying “You two are GREAT together. Why wait?” Because that’s way better than thinking she’s a total bitch who got bored one Monday afternoon in May. We both took the day off and set out to begin a move a few days ahead of schedule.

We crept through crawling traffic and pedestrians hiking in to help, snaking around back ways to get into Bryan’s neighborhood. Police blockades and damp National Guardsmen (because screw fair, it rained again) denied access to the most heavily affected areas. We managed to the very edge of Bryan’s neighborhood (the half that still stood anyway) and an incredibly kind OK County Sheriff’s deputy decided to allow us to drive in when he was well within his rights to make us hoof it.

I couldn’t help but feel a tiny twang of survivor’s guilt as we pulled into his driveway. Power lines still littered the road and the house was dark and musty. The smell of unconditioned air smelled weird and though everything was exactly as it should have been and cloud-filtered sunlight poured in through the windows, it was still creepy, a disjointed experience that neither of us could explain. I shut down the emotional center of my brain as we dissembled furniture and wrapped valuables to keep them from breaking. I categorically ignored the knowledge that folks a mere four doors down were looking anything at all not already dissembled or broken.

After we tetris-ed the truck full of boxes and belongings, I felt what I imagine a refugee feels as they bundle up their goods and trundle down the road looking for higher ground and safer keeping. Only I wasn’t  refugee. I wasn’t fleeing anything. I was simply going ahead with plans already discussed, just a little earlier than initially thought and surrounded by something that, honestly, we’re accustomed to seeing. Of course when a storm takes out your home its a shock and I can’t begin to think I know what that feels like but I’ve seen the aftermath before. I’m as safe as I ever am, my family protected and all my things intact. I should feel lucky or blessed or privileged, and I do but it also feels weird. Like I should feel something else; I should feel worse or better or something other than perfectly normal because my life is still perfectly normal.

Perhaps its because this is the first major tornado in my area since the onset of adulthood. The previous tornado that had held any sort of impact on me or attacked people I actually knew, hit when I was 18 at best and I don’t really care what the law says, I wasn’t even close to being an adult then, though my 18-year-old self would have argued that point vehemently.  The one before that, the infamous May 3rd (Yes, we named it by its date. This one will be called “The May 20th.”), struck when I was in middle school.

Perhaps because it could have easily been me and my family and now that holds different implications.  Once you have kids everything changes, including, apparently, emotional reactions to weather events.

Perhaps it’s just because I’m mushier then I used to be.

Perhaps it’s all of the above.

There’s a few of my perhaps’. And they all feel weird.