6/20/2013 11:22:00 AM Local woman finds hope in Oklahoma City
by Ken Haggerty
Laura Mech, Cannon Falls, said she just couldn't take it any more after watching the news on May 20 of disaster caused by tornadoes near Oklahoma City.
"I posted on my Facebook page that I felt I had to do something and was thinking of a roadtrip to offer relief to the victims," said Mech, a pediatric nurse.
She said from that simple posting, things just took off, launching a story of hope. Friends and neighbors she barely talked to or hadn't heard from in years reached out to her, offering to donate items and/or cash.
Her employer, Pediatric Home Service, and her husband Eric's workplace, Hastings Chrysler, organized collections.
She ended up with a living room full of basic household supplies, packed her car full and headed to Wichita on Thursday, May 30 where she met her sister, Katie Draxten of Colorado Springs. The two went together on to Oklahoma, where they joined in with the City of Moore relief effort.
They volunteered hauling junk to curbs, all kinds of debris; shingles, wood, clothes, toys and anything else you can imagine.
Mech says the first area they worked was, she thought, horrible and devastated. Until they got closer to the core of the storm damage, where she said it was even worse, like an atomic bomb had gone off. "There was nothing standing anywhere for blocks," said Mech.
On Friday night, back at their hotel (points donated for the stay by her sister's employer), the sisters almost got caught up in the second wave of terrible storms that hit that area.
They huddled in the hallway of the hotel under mattresses pulled from the rooms along with a terrified softball team of girls from Wisconsin as the storm passed over the hotel.
Her car sustained $1,800 in hail damage, but otherwise they escaped worse harm.
The sisters were back at the relief effort the next day. They hooked up with firefighters from Staten Island who ever since 9/11 have been traveling to diasters all across the country to return the favors offered to New Yorkers in 2001.
Duct tape, tools, gloves, sunscreen and water were among the most wanted supplies. "Everyone you helped was so grateful. Others who were helping were such good people. It really was a rewarding experience and gives you such hope in people," said Mech.
"You realize that one person can make a difference," said Mech.
She said part of her felt guilty missing her kids' (Grant, 11; Ricky, 12; and Jack, 5) last day of school, but when she returned home early that next week and the kids greeted her with a sign of how proud they were of her, she felt better.