I have been in constant touch from Italy with friends, family, and coworkers, as we work to accumulate resources for our friend and colleague, Robyn Rojas, who suffered a catastrophic loss of property in the May 20 tornado in Moore, Oklahoma. Skype, MagicJack, and Facebook, along with a ton of old-fashioned email, and a web-savvy friend who quickly set up a GoFundMe account to help Robyn. Robyn is eight months pregnant – due July 25 – and she and her husband lost everything in the tornado. Literally everything.
There is a picture of her in the national news, sitting on top of a pile of rubble with her mother, eating dinner out of a styrofoam to-go box, looking with frustrated disgust at some small wooden tchotchke – perhaps a napkin holder; they are sitting in what looks to have been her kitchen; it’s hard to tell – and the look on Robyn’s face says, “well, here’s something to save, I guess. I wouldn’t have set it aside as something special!”
The Italians here in Arezzo have voiced constant concern and support. In fact, Robyn’s situation was even publicized in Italian news (she is not named) here (in Italian). They all invoke their concern and dismay and grief after the terrible earthquake in L’Aquila, Abruzzo a few years ago. Many want to know why Oklahoma homes do not have basements. Many have asked us why builders were issued permits to rebuild in an area that is known for repeat targeting by tornadoes of historic strength (1999, 2003, again now 2013). All have expressed special concern for the affected elementary schools, Briarwood and Plaza Towers. They want to know why children were permitted to attend school in a building that was known to have no safe shelter from tornadoes if it is a constant headline in our weather. They are grieving with Oklahomans for the loss of young life in Moore. People around the world are asking these questions.
I am working all channels on behalf of Robyn. We have three home options lined up for them as possibilities for this summer. A short-term car loan for the summer has been offered. As soon as she is ready, she will be taken care of and will have a support network for months to come. The collections on the GoFundMe site are in the five figures now. But how much does it take to repurchase life as it was? Is it even possible to do so? Probably not. But little ways can help. They need everything. At this time, they have nowhere to store anything. (They are still indexing what was not destroyed at their house, like that napkin holder.)
If you have not donated to Robyn’s GoFundMe campaign set up by their friends and colleagues, please consider doing so here. Please. They truly need our help. I am honestly touched by the donations from around the world from people who are most likely OU international alumni – Japanese donors who survived the 2011 tsunami, Chinese alumni, latino alumni. The list of international names grows and grows. Not to mention the list of our international education colleagues from around the country – Texas, Florida, Oklahoma… companies and campuses large and small.
Robyn has plenty of global moxie herself, having traveled and danced with a company in Asia. She abroad in Mexico as an undergraduate. She speaks fluent Spanish; her husband Ivan is Colombian. In her job, she works with people from all over the world every day (I know this because we shared a cubicle wall before my husband and I came to Italy for the year.) Honestly, Robyn could have a career in diplomacy. Her attention to etiquette, kindness, and detail is incredible, and she’s putting those skills to work locally, in Norman, Oklahoma – which is home to quite a large international community, thanks to the university.
Robyn’s dog Mona has still not been found. (If you aren’t busy and have internet access, here is a picture of her dog, Mona. It has been hard to match the lost and found pets with the limited internet access in Moore. And the fact that everyone’s laptop and computer and router are gone. And all the cables connecting all the telecomm.) Shelters and owners have been posting images, but it has been hard to play the lost-pet memory game online with so many different sites, grainy images, etc. There is a good chance that Mona is fine and is in shelter somewhere. A post-tornado picture of her might be on the web. Can you help Robyn look for Mona? Owners and pets are being reunited each day. Pets are smart – they know how to survive, if it is at all possible. I know Robyn’s heart would be far less heavy if she could just hug Mona.