By Holly and Allan Masri
In 1999, Moore, Oklahoma, was hit by a tornado that killed 36 people and registered the highest wind speeds ever recorded. Then yesterday, another massive tornado struck, killing twenty-four people, including nine children. At least seven of those children died at school.
Between 1999 and yesterday, the citizens and government of that town had 14 years to make their schools safe for their children. You would think that the 36 deaths in 1999 might have been a wake-up call, that the survivors would say, "We must be better prepared, next time. We must make sure our children, at least, have a shelter to go to". But yesterday, children at both of the schools had no better shelter than hallways and closets.
Where were the underground shelters? Where did the tax money go, the money that could have built shelters for those children? Turns out, the wealthy people have it... because Oklahoma eliminated inheritance tax, and made sure that the wealthy people pay no more income tax than poor people.
Keith Mitchell, executive director of communication at Lawtown Public Schools, located 80 miles southwest of Moore, Oklahoma, told the New York Daily News that there are no specific guidelines from the state that mandate a certain type of storm construction like a fallout shelter.
"It was left up to the school district to determine what structures to have," he said.
Since money obviously wasn't spent on the schools, who was responsible for that decision? Here's one person: U.S. Rep. Tom Cole, who lives in Moore.
Cole said Tuesday on MSNBC TV that the school was the most secure and structurally strong building in the area.
"And so people did the right thing," he said, "but if you're in front of an F4 or an F5 there is no good thing to do if you're above ground. It's just so tragic."
"Tragic" doesn't begin to cover it. But WHY were people above ground, Mr. Cole? Why were there no adequate shelters at Plaza Towers Elementary, or at Briarwood? Why did seven children drown in a basement?
Undoubtedly Rep. Cole and the wealthy people he works for are enjoying the blood money they saved because they refused to make safe refuges for the children of Moore. Perhaps they are even toasting each other with expensive champagne right now, congratulating each other on how little they pay to the government. And all the dead, and wounded, of Moore? Expendable. (Big sigh)..."It's just so tragic."
Every day we hear from the Tea Party and their ilk that government spends too much, collects too much in taxes, and wastes our money. But Mr. Cole, what better use for money could there be, than to keep our children alive? A little tax money spent on underground shelters in Moore would not be wasted.