For those living in Oklahoma, tornados are a regular occurrence but this one was different and after he took a peek at the news coverage of the storm, Bradford knew it.
The result was an EF-5 tornado, the largest and fastest (more than 200 MPH winds) tornado there is, that ripped through nearby Moore, Okla., a suburb just south of the city.
Aside from a cousin who lives in Moore, Bradford knew the rest of his family and friends were safe. After a quick check to make sure his cousin was OK – the answer was yes – Bradford’s thoughts immediately turned to the people of an area he’s quite familiar with.
“It’s just hard to watch,” Bradford said. “The meteorologist was saying this has gone bad in a hurry, this doesn’t look good. They knew what was coming and then to see the actual tornado live on TV and know what it’s doing on the ground, I think that’s the hardest part because you know that every second, every minute these people are losing their homes and losing their belongings and then to see the photos afterwards, it’s just really tough.”
When all was said and done, estimates came that the mile-wide twister tore through a 20-mile stretch of Oklahoma that damaged more than 13,000 homes belonging to about 33,000 people, killing 24.
The tornado was just the 59th registered as an EF-5 in the nation’s history but the second in the Moore area in just a 14-year span.
In an area known as “Tornado Alley,” it’s expected that the natural disaster will happen on occasion but to again go through one so devastating is a tough pill to swallow for anyone.
“Tornados are a part of life,” Bradford said. “They happen every year and you are thankful that one doesn’t hit your home but you are very aware that the next one might and you feel for the people who lost their homes and you want to help because the next one could hit your home. And if it does, you hop that there’s people out there willing to come to your aid.”
To that end, Bradford has wasted no time reaching out to his new community here in St. Louis to help his home community back in Oklahoma.
On Tuesday afternoon, Bradford received a call about joining some corporate partners in St. Louis as well as the Red Cross to help in any way possible. He didn’t hesitate to say yes.
Less than 24 hours later on Wednesday afternoon, Bradford joined Switch Contemporary, the American Red Cross and a variety of other partners to create #STL4OKC, donation drive to support the people affected by the storm.
“Thankfully it didn’t hit our part of town but it’s still hard to see something like that happen in your hometown,” Bradford said. “I’m so thankful to live here in a community that’s willing to help.”
The donation drive has been put together with the intent to fill three 53’ tractor-trailers with 50,000 pounds of new goods and supplies that will ship off to Oklahoma City as early as Saturday morning or as soon as the trucks are full.
The first collection point is today at Broadway and Spruce in downtown St. Louis just across from Gate 1 of Busch Stadium in the Tums parking lot. That collection will go from 4 p.m. to 10:30 p.m.
Tomorrow, there will be two collection sites accepting goods from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Those locations are Loughborough Commons (at I-55 and Loughborough) and Kirkwood Commons (I-44 and Lindbergh).
The Red Cross is looking for donations that include baby items such as diapers and wipes, personal needs like bathroom tissue, first aid supplies and sunscreen, cleaning supplies such as bleach or paper towels, building and packing materials like hammers, screw drivers, duct tape and heavy garbage bags, pet supplies like food and kitty litter, cloths and shoes for children, non-perishable food, blankets, bottled water, batteries and candles.
Of course, cash donations are also extremely helpful and can be made by visiting www.redcross.org, calling 1-800-REDCROSS or texting the word REDCROSS to 90999 to make a $10 donation. Cash donations go to provide food, shelter and emotional support to residents of affected areas.
“I think right now if we can just get the word out about it, I know there’s a drop off site tonight at the soccer game at Busch Stadium and then there’s two drop off sites tomorrow,” Bradford said. “We are trying to fill these three trucks and take them down to Oklahoma City on Saturday morning. So anyone, if you can donate anything, there are thousands of families back home right now who have literally nothing and everything will help and they will be extremely grateful. It means a lot to me that the people of St. Louis are even willing to help. It’s pretty cool.”