in which i can’t breathe

Written by Sandra Heska King

PRAY EDITOR "Once a nurse, always a nurse," they say. But now I spend my days with laptop and camera in tow as I look for the extraordinary in the ordinary. I'm a Michigan gal, mom to two, grandmom to two, and wife to one. My husband and I live on 50 acres in the same 150-plus-year-old farmhouse he grew up in. I love this quote by Mary Oliver, "Pay attention. Be astonished. Tell about it." That's how I want to live. And I'm still learning how to be. Still.

May 21, 2013


I can’t tear myself away from the Weather Channel.

Away from the photos and videos of devastation and heartbreak.

I can’t breathe for the weight on my chest and the ache in my heart.

And I’m stunned by the power.


Where the wind came sweeping down the plain.

Fast and furious.

The massive twister turned and churned and carved up the landscape in a swath at least a mile (some say two miles) wide and at least twenty miles long.

It tore down the power.

It pulverized ten-inch cinder block walls, stacked up cars like matchboxes, and made TinkerToys of buildings. It spun debris like snow in a globe. Someone said it hurled horses through the air.

It blew lives apart in a heartbeat, over a span of forty minutes.

It took aim at two schools and shattered them, shattered families as it stole their children.

Children sent to school with hugs and kisses and have-a-good-day and cookies waiting warm from the oven that nobody will eat.

Some drowned in the basement, the very place they’d gone for protection.

Some lived because a teacher wrapped herself around them.

God, I can’t breathe.

Our house is gone,” one woman in Moore told a reporter with KWTV-9, crying and clutching her two children’s hands. “Everything but where we were is gone.”

The woman said she and her children hid in their bathtub with a mattress over them. Had they been anywhere else in the house, they would have been killed, she said.

The death toll mounts, and the storms mount on.

And some speak of blessings. Because they live, and it’s just stuff.

But we don’t understand, and hearts bleed, and God we can’t breathe.

Yet we know this…

That though Oklahoma lies in pieces, even in the pieces is His peace.

And with the pieces He can weave a beautiful whole.

I’m stunned by His power to do the impossible.

But right now, all I see is a hole. All I see is one. huge. hole. A hollow of what once was. And I stand in the rubble with you, Oklahoma. And I weep with you and wrap you in my heart. All I know to do is pray for you.

“Everything but where we were is gone.”

And everything but where we are can go, and still we’re safe under the mattress of His care.

I know this.

But right now, God, I can’t breathe.


  1. kelli woodford

    a moving tribute, Sandy. i love the honest way you grieve and how you sit beside instead of preach over. even that is beauty from the ash.
    on my knees with you, friend.

  2. Diane Bailey

    Me too, Sandy. In prayer and tears for them all. Prayers without words, because I can hardly breathe through the tears for them.

  3. marthaorlando

    I am grieving with you and those precious victims of the storms. May God’s peace fill them with hope and comfort them in their distress.

  4. Lyli Dunbar

    It was raining here in Florida last night, and for once I was thankful that the cable was out. I am scared to turn on my TV. Praying for hurting families today.

  5. Sharon O

    It is terrible. tragedies are all around us. A friend of mine just lost her 17 year old son in a car fire, life is just hard.

  6. Jennifer Camp

    Your words bring His breath to these praying hearts. Thank you, Sandy.

    • Sandra Heska King

      Thank you, Jennifer. Praying He’ll breathe fresh life into the broken.

  7. alecia

    I think we’re all shell shocked. Something like that could happen to any of us on any given day. It’s a humbling reminder to not waste a single day we have on this earth.

    • Sandra Heska King

      Shell-shocked. That’s a good description, Alecia. Let’s be present to the moment. It might very well be our last.

  8. Linda Chontos

    I find it impossible to wrap my mind around it. I try to put myself in their place and it is so devastating. There are no spoken words – just a knowing that God is good. Even as we weep and wonder.

    • Sandra Heska King

      I can’t wrap mine around it either, Linda. No words. No answers. All we can do is trust and lean and week and wonder.

  9. Patricia W Hunter

    So, so sad. I’ve been gone most of the day and it’s been a bit of relief to be away from the news, but my thoughts constantly returned to all the people whose lives were turned upside down in a few brief moments. I can’t imagine. All I can do is pray … and heed this reminder that none of us are guaranteed another day to love those God has placed in our lives. xox

    • Sandra Heska King

      Exactly. When we wake up in the morning, we have no way to know how we’ll go to bed. Or even if we will. Or if our loved one will. Sobering.

  10. IfMeadowsSpeak

    So glad I came over to read. Yes, that’s it Sandra.

  11. soulstops

    Oh, Sandra…grieving and praying with you…

  12. Ashley Tolins Larkin

    Sandy, I am praying with you. Thank you for being honest and not wrapping it up because there is no sense in this, but God. Thank you for speaking in a compassionate hush. Bless you.

    • Sandra Heska King

      Praying that some day, He’ll be able to wrap it all up for us. But also somehow thinking that at that time, it’ll all fall away and not matter. But until then… you’re right. There is no sense.

  13. Positively Alene

    Oh girl, you’re making me cry! Just breathtaking — your words. Your tribute. Your honesty.

    • Sandra Heska King

      And may we remember to pray. Because as quickly as news moves, we tend to forget…

  14. DeanneMoore

    I lived just west Moore in OKC just over 20 years ago. I know Okies are prepared for storms but this…it literally must have sucked the air right out of their lungs. Living in tornado alley, I crouched in the hall one March afternoon of my 6th grade year. The twister lifted just as it got to the school… I think about it now, about those schools in Moore and I can’t breathe…

    • Sandra Heska King

      I just can’t imagine how scary, Dea. We don’t get many tornadoes here, and I have to admit I love storms. But thinking about this again and thinking of them having the air sucked out of their lungs… I find myself holding my breath again.


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in which i can’t breathe

by Sandra Heska King time to read: 2 min