May 21, 2013
The pain of having his wisdom teeth removed Monday was nothing compared to the pain Tennessee basketball player Josh Richardson felt after seeing the devastation wrought by ravaging storms in his home state.
With the spring semester of his sophomore year in the books, Richardson is spending the month of May in his hometown of Edmond, Okla.
Edmond sits just 23 miles north of Moore, Okla., which was the community most drastically affected by Monday's storms. It was there that a two-mile-wide tornado stayed on the ground for a full 40 minutes, carving a 22-mile path through residential areas.
An early estimate by the National Weather Service rated the Moore tornado as an "EF4," meaning it had winds between 166 and 200 mph.
"What a lot of people don't understand is that the tornadoes actually started on Saturday," Richardson said.
"(On Sunday) when the storms got going (in Edmond), I was at Gold's Gym playing basketball with some other college guys I grew up with," Richardson added. "When the sirens came on, they stuffed us all in a little office for a while. At first, I wasn't really worried about anything because we always hear the tornado sirens.
"But when I walked outside with two of my friends to go home, we saw this giant swirly cloud in the sky not too far away. So we sped to my house, prayed with my family and it was a blessing (the tornadoes) missed us."
Between Saturday and Monday, several less severe tornadoes were sighted just a few streets away from the Richardson's home.
Richardson spent most of Monday in bed after having his wisdom teeth removed that morning. His parents, Micheal and Alice, kept Josh updated on the tornadoes' location.
Micheal, a retired Oklahoma City firefighter, provided volunteer relief to those affected by similarly devastating storms in Moore in 1999. That year's storms recorded the strongest wind speeds in history, according to Oklahoma Lt. Governor Todd Lamb.
Tennessee head coach Cuonzo Martin was in Kingsport, Tenn., Monday for a "Big Orange Caravan" function. While he was shaking hands, signing autographs and posing for pictures with the Vol faithful, he was simultaneously concerned for the safety of Richardson and his family.
Upon learning that they were safe and unharmed by Monday's tornadoes, Martin Tweeted his feelings of relief.
@CuonzoMartin: Relieved to hear that Edmond, OK native Josh Richardson and his family are safe after the tornadoes. Praying for those affected.
While seeing constant reports of the death and destruction resulting from the storms, Richardson finds solace in the spirit of his fellow Oklahomans.
"It's tragic to see all that happen," Richardson said. "But honestly, Oklahoma is one of the most helpful and community-oriented places I've ever been. I know we'll bounce back."
Those interested in helping Oklahoma's storm victims can donate $10 to the American Red Cross simply by texting REDCROSS to 90999. Donations also can be made securely online at http://redcross.org