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Oklahomans Have Long Tradition of Resilience, Perseverance


The people of the plains state of Oklahoma have shown determination in facing disasters, both natural and human. One week ago, a powerful tornado tore through Moore, an Oklahoma City suburb, killing more than 20 people. But as area residents are living up to what has come to be known as the Oklahoma Standard.

In a rural area of Oklahoma, Todd Mauldin lost his house and truck.

"I have had three close calls, and this was the third one, and it got me!" he said.

This kind of pluck and good-humored determination is what people admire about Oklahomans.

In this devastated neighborhood in the suburb called Moore, most people plan to rebuild and remain. This is not the first time this state has faced tragedy. It has suffered more disasters per capita than any other state and not all were natural.

On April 19, 1995 a bomb blew up in front of the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City, killing 168 people.

Timothy McVeigh was later tried, convicted and executed for the crime.

Oklahomans came together to help the victims and later built a monument, with metal chairs set in rows where the building once stood.

Sue Craig, a guide, explains the symbolism. "There are 168 chairs, one for each person, and at the base there is their name inscribed," she said.

Craig remembers that day well, even though she was not there at the time.

"I was teaching school in Moore, where the tornado happened Monday," she recalled.

The response to the bombing established what became known as the “Oklahoma Standard.” President Obama referred to it when he visited here on Sunday.

"This area has known more than its share of heartbreak but people here pride themselves on the Oklahoma standard - being able to work through disasters like this and come out stronger on the other side," he said.

The Oklahoma Standard was on display after the tornado.

Volunteers have poured in with food, water and other items. Baptist Student Pastor Joey Dean says this is typical Oklahoma behavior.

"Any time disaster happens, we just roll up our sleeves and we want to help," he said. "We aren't so much interested in staying in our home and getting comfortable, we really want to get out there and help our neighbor."

That help is appreciated by victims, like Brooklyn Pearce and her family.

"Oklahoma is an awesome place to live, and they come together really fast, and they are here to help, and they do their job well," she said.

State officials are pleased by the response. But they say they take lessons from each disaster in order to respond better next time.

People will eventually rebuild and move on with their lives, but as the bombing memorial demonstrates, they will also keep a place in their hearts for those who were lost.

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