While on the ground in Oklahoma Glenn interviewed Governor Mary Fallin who has been overseeing the search and rescue efforts. She talked about the extraordinary will of the people of Oklahoma and why they continue to stay despite the constant threat of devastating storms.
Transcript of interview below:
GLENN: While there are those in the media that want to make this about global warming and everything else, let’s take a moment and just talk about the people in Oklahoma and the people that were affected yesterday by a mammoth storm. Governor Mary Fallin is here. She was just on the scene. You were here ‑‑ were you at the school last night as well?
FALLIN: I was. I was at the school very late last night down when we were trying to still find people and find the children.
GLENN: I’ve never seen ‑‑ I’ve never been to a ‑‑ I mean action I’ve been to hurricanes, I’ve been in hurricanes. Frightening. Never seen anything like a tornado before. It is truly terrifying, and the school, there is ‑‑ there’s nothing left. There’s nothing left. How do you ‑‑ I said when we pulled up, I got out of the car and I said I wouldn’t even know where to begin. Where do you begin?
FALLIN: One of the things that was interesting last night that the local authorities told me was that they weren’t sure where the streets were. They couldn’t tell where businesses were, where homes were lost and I heard the mayor say, you know, one of the things we’ve got to do is get the names of the streets up because the tornado path was so wide. It was two miles wide. And as you just said, it was basically sticks and stones and metal and debris that was just thrown all over and the buildings were totally leveled, not just for a couple of blocks but for miles wide where the tremendous path the tornado crossed.
GLENN: So tell me the ‑‑ and I’m sure they’re here and I don’t want to besmirch them ‑‑ yes, I do want to but I’m not going to. The FEMA. I didn’t see FEMA here. I saw a lot of local and state agencies, and everybody seems to be operating well. What is needed here now?
FALLIN: Well, actually, Glenn, it’s pretty remarkable. Oklahoma has unfortunately been through so many different disasters over the years that we have a very good plan of action and we know how to work together and we now how important it is to collaborate, to communicate, to bring all the local, state and federal authorities along with the charities together to develop a game plan and so actually Saturday we had started talking to our citizens that conditions were going to be ripe for some severe weather for three days, for Sunday, Monday and Tuesday and, sure enough, on Sunday we saw the first tornadoes begin to strike and then, of course, yesterday. But we had our state emergency operations center up and running on Saturday, prepared with the different, different groups all in one command center at the capital. And I will tell you that FEMA was on the scene immediately on Sunday after we had the first storms that came through and we lost a couple of lives and lost several homes, many homes and structures during that time period. But FEMA was very good to respond, and the president did call yesterday and they did give us notice last night that our federal emergency disaster declaration was approved, which will help us get the resources that we need and the federal financial support that we need to help these communities.
GLENN: Okay. Can I ask you a question? Why ‑‑ and I don’t mean this ‑‑ I mean, I really like the people from Oklahoma. But I grew up in Seattle and, you know, the ‑‑ sunshine is extreme weather. I have no idea why you would live ‑‑ this town, Moore, was hit, and the highest winds ever measured on the surface of the Earth at 302 miles an hour happened here. Same area in 1999, same area just hit yesterday, same people. What the hell are you thinking? I mean, really, I mean, as an outsider why do you stay?
FALLIN: Oh, I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else but Oklahoma. If you ever experience a tragedy, whether it’s in your personal life, your community or your state, you want to be in Oklahoma. This is the very best state with the very best people. And I love the other part of United States, but time and time again, whether it’s been from the 1995 Murrah federal building bombing to the May 3rd tornado that actually hit at this same location, as you said. In fact, we’re sitting in the same church where the command center was at that time where we fed the citizens, the volunteers, the emergency personnel happened right here at this church. But our people are the best. They are the best at coming together. If you watch the news, immediately when the tornado had just gone back up and moved through the community but gone back up in the air, moved through the community, you saw people immediately on the ground helping their fellow neighbors, and we’re the best at giving our resources, giving our money, doing whatever it takes to get back on our feet. And we have a tremendous amount of courage and perseverance and we will grow back even stronger. In fact, Oklahoma’s a very strong state right now. We have a great economy, we have a great quality of life and we certainly have a great spirit.
GLENN: Okay. If I’m sitting with ‑‑ and again, the people of New Jersey are great and there was some amazing things happened in New Jersey and we were there and we saw just amazing people. But if I’m sitting here with Governor Christie, I expect a pat politician answer to this. I have a feeling your answer will be different. How important are the churches to what is happening on the streets right now?
FALLIN: Well, it’s more the spirit of Oklahomans. It is a God‑fearing state. It is a state that has a tremendous amount of faith and compassion and strength and resilience, and we help our fellow neighbors. You know, we come together in time of need and that’s what’s made our state one of the top states in the nation in job creation right now and having a very strong economic recovery from the national recession that we just went through. It’s our people and it’s the spirit of that. And certainly we do have many great faith organizations and churches and synagogues and temples and different things that people worship at, and we believe in faith. And that’s a very important part of the fabric of the State of Oklahoma.
GLENN: Okay. Governor, thank you. I know you have a billion things to do today and you have mud on your shoes, as do I, and you ‑‑ but you’ve had them on for several days. Thank you so much. And anything we can do to help you, just let us know.
FALLIN: Continue sending your prayers. And we appreciate the money using raising for Oklahoma. There is going to be a tremendous amount of need.
GLENN: Thank you so much.