For some, they flew 1,187 miles to get here. Others got in their cars and drove 232 miles. Southwest Airlines Employees were coming to help people they’d never met.
The widest tornado on record in our nation devastated El Reno, Oklahoma on May 31. Farmers in this area have about 13,000 acres of wheat fields ready to harvest in just a few weeks. The wake of this storm left them wondering how they would maintain their livelihood when they looked out and saw air conditioning units and other debris the storm flung onto their land. With metal in the wheat fields, the farmers can’t harvest, which means no paycheck to put food on the table. And, if they risk it, running over a piece of metal could cost a farmer $4,000 to replace a tractor tire.
Recently, more than 140 of my fellow Co-Hearts from coast to coast joined All Hands Volunteers to help make sure these El Reno farmers didn’t lose their harvest. Among the Employees who flew in from across the country were folks right here in the Oklahoma community who also experienced devastation from the storm. Sometimes the best medicine for the soul is to help others, even when you’re suffering.
The news can’t convey what if feels like to have your life ripped to shreds. Although I was lucky not to experience much damage from the storm, many Employees I work with at the Oklahoma Customer Support & Services Center live where the tornado hit the hardest, and I’d like to share the stories of two of my Co-Hearts. Representative Rose Yockey lives just two blocks from Plaza Towers Elementary School where her children once attended school. Team Leader Ayesha Howard was in her home during the first tornado that hit Moore, Oklahoma with her young niece. The storm completely demolished both of their homes.
What the storm didn’t do is demolish their spirits—they both are grateful for their lives and know that everything else will come in due time. Thanks to Southwest’s Employees Catastrophic Assistance Charity—funded by Employee donations to help Employees suffering severe financial hardship—both Rose and Ayesha were able to replace some items the storm took from them to help them start down the road to recovery.
That road to recovery will be months for many. In this video, you’ll see what we were able to accomplish in El Reno just by spending a day volunteering—we did more than the farmers expected and finished what would have taken months. We helped clear debris from 200 acres and prevented the harvest from being lost, but we left those farmers with their hearts full of hope. Ours were full too, and it gave us the strength to get through another day.