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Oklahoma Communities Cannot be Broken

September 30, 2013
Weekly Columns

Just four months ago, Oklahomans proved their resilience by living through back-to-back tornadoes that claimed lives, destroyed entire neighborhoods and shook communities. While our state has come to expect the threat of tornadoes each year, it doesn’t make it any easier when it happens. Fortunately, with the support of friends across our state and nation, we have persevered and lost no time in picking up the pieces and rebuilding our communities.
Immediately following the disasters, Oklahoma felt the love and support of the entire country, including first responders, local volunteers and generous donors. Through local and national fundraising efforts and the dedicated work of volunteers, never once were we lacking in supplies or shelter for victims of the storms.
We remember the exceptional leadership of many state and local officials, including Governor Mary Fallin, Civil Emergency Director Albert Ashwood, Moore Mayor Glenn Lewis, Moore City Manager Steve Eddy, Newcastle Mayor Karl Nail and Oklahoma City Mayor Mick Cornett, whose tireless work pulled us through a nightmare. President Obama, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano and FEMA Director Craig Fugate personally came to Moore to survey the damage and offer support during the recovery process, and their watchful eye over the situation ensured that Oklahoma, especially the Moore community, received the aid needed from FEMA. In addition, members of Congress, from both sides of the aisle, reached out to express their sympathy and offer support in Oklahoma’s time of need.
Recovery efforts are still in full force, and my hometown of Moore continues to receive generous donations, grant money and other support for rebuilding. At the end of August, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) announced nearly $37 million in disaster relief funding, including $26.3 million for efforts in Moore. This aid comes from the Community Development Block Grant Program and will directly help Oklahomans whose homes and businesses were destroyed.
Along with Senator Mary L. Landrieu (LA), I was pleased to introduce the Tornado Family Safety Act in early August, which helps families use disaster loans to build tornado safe rooms. This legislation was in direct response to the recommendation of Mayor Glenn Lewis that all homes rebuilt include safe rooms. Our goal through this legislation is to ease the minds of those who have suffered unbelievable losses in the past and make sure they have a safe place should they ever been threatened by similar disasters.

Most recently, Moore families were blessed by the generous donation from the Cantor Fitzgerald Relief Fund. On September 23, representatives from Cantor Fitzgerald traveled to Moore and distributed numerous $1,000 prepaid debit cards to families who had a child in the Moore Public Schools District on May 20 and whose homes were damaged or destroyed. I was honored to welcome Howard W. Lutnick, Chairman and CEO of Cantor Fitzgerald, L.P. and BCG Partners, Inc., his wife Allison and sister Edie Lutnick, who is the President and Co-Founder of the relief fund.
The Lutnick family and everyone at Cantor Fitzgerald understands extreme loss and relates to our Oklahoma tragedy in a unique way. Headquartered in New York City, the company’s offices were previously located on five floors of the World Trade Centers before the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. After losing 658 of their 960 New York employees, including Chairman Lutnick’s brother, the company established the Cantor Fitzgerald Relief Fund to aid families who lost loved ones in the attacks. Since then, the fund has extended support to aid numerous other charitable causes and humanitarian efforts around the world, including helping those impacted by Hurricane Sandy earlier this year and now through their very generous gifts to Moore tornado victims. I am grateful that they have extended a helping hand to us in our time of need.

Also last week, members of Oklahoma City’s own Thunder reached out to the Moore community by visiting several rebuilding projects and surprising students at the temporary sites of the elementary schools that were destroyed on May 20. This is just another of many examples that shows Oklahoma hasn’t forgotten the displaced families or left their side.  
I am still overwhelmed by the generosity and love displayed by people across the country since the storms in May. Disaster recovery in Oklahoma continues to look better each day, and the days following have proven that disaster cannot break or permanently shake our communities.