2nd Place Winner of 2004 OKC Writers Inc.
& 3rd Place Winner of 2005 Oklahoma Writers
Federation Inc. District Contest
The Oklahoma Twister Quilt
as told by Frances
and Shirley Thompson were just sitting down to
dinner that fateful Monday, May 3rd, 1999, when
storm sirens started blaring. They flipped on
the TV to hear Gary England's weather warning;
"This is an F5 Tornado with wind speeds clocked
at a record 318 miles/hour. All those in the
Bridgecreek, Moore, south Oklahoma City and Del
City areas should take shelter immediately.
Multi-cell tornadoes have touched ground."
Thompsons quickly grabbed pillows and blankets
and jumped into their bathtub, and pulled a foam
mattress over their heads. They waited and
prayed as they held each other. They listened
and guessed at what was flying past as
torrential rains and howling winds ripped houses
in their neighborhood apart, tossing them like
matchsticks. Their own house started to creak
and groan and then exploded. The next thing
they saw was the ominous dark sky as they peeked
from beneath their mattress. Occasional flashes
of lightning illuminated debris flying by -- a
window fan, a porch swing, a chimney -- just
over their no longer roofed lodging.
After the eye of the storm passed over, Mike and
Shirley climbed out of their bathtub to survey
the damage. With the roof gone, everything was
sopping wet. Every window had exploded. Broken
glass and insulation were embedded in any
remaining furniture. The garage was nowhere to
be seen and their car was gone. The wind had
even ripped up the driveway pavement. Pieces of
their neighbor's two-by-fours and sheet metal
now lay in what used to be Mike and Shirley's
was a miracle that they and the neighbors were
even alive! They praised God, taking comfort
that they still had each other. They told
themselves that was all that really mattered as
they stepped over soggy photo albums and broken
china. They were safe even though their house
was beyond repair. "We can buy a new house, "
Mike kept telling Shirley. "It will be our new
remembered what Mike's Dad always said, "We are
super overcomers, conquerors in all things in
Christ Jesus." A preacher's kid, Mike had
always been taught to count his blessings and
trust God to provide for all his needs. The
twister would reveal how much his dad had taught
the next hours unfolded and Mike and Shirley
further explored their chaos, they lamented the
loss of irreplaceable family albums, school
mementos and wedding pictures. Then they
discovered the one treasure they valued above
all others. "Mike," Shirley shouted, "here's
the Wedding Sampler quilt your Mom made for
us!" Mike's mom had made it by hand and given
it to the couple for a wedding present. It had
been on their bed since they were married. Only
now it was filthy, embedded with asbestos and
wrapped around the washer. And it was shredded
in several places. "Maybe your Mom can mend
it." Shirley said with hope and desperation.
They wrapped the precious quilt and took it
along with a few necessities to spend the night
with Mike's parents.
can't promise anything," Frances Thompson said
as she dubiously examined the damaged quilt,
"but I'll give it my best shot! After all, it's
a blue ribbon winner and survivor just like the
two of you and certainly deserves my utmost
attention and loving care. How ironic!" she
said. "God must have a real sense of humor for
the Oklahoma Twister block in the center of the
quilt to be the only block that needs no
Frances worked on the Twister quilt all summer
long. She gingerly washed and rewashed the
quilt to get the asbestos out. Then, tediously,
she appliquťd thirty-nine hearts to cover the
tears. Fortunately she had squirreled away
enough of the original fabric scraps to make the
the meantime, Mike and Shirley bought a home in
Norman and began settling in. Frances made
duplicates of as many of the missing family
pictures as she had and presented them, along
with the restored quilt, as a housewarming gift.
"Wow!" Shirley exclaimed. "It looks better than
new! Thank you so much for your gift of love
and labor You can't imagine how much we've
missed our wedding quilt and how much it means
to us that you cared enough to spend the long
hours to recreate it! She gave her
mother-in-law a happy hug and then said, "I'm
twice blessed and will cherish it forever. It's
going back on our bed to christen our new house
and celebrate our new beginning. It will be our
lasting remembrance of your love, God's
protection, and the tornado that made us all
realize how important family is."
91:2,4 "I will say of the LORD, 'He is my
refuge and my fortress; my God, in Him I will
trust.'... He shall cover you with His feathers,
and under His wings you shall take refuge;
3rd Place Winner of 2005 Oklahoma Writers
Federation Inc. District Contest
Grapes of Wrath Yield Treasures
as told by
Dorotha Jean Dani
105 degrees that summer day of 1935, when I saw
a sight Iíll never forget. I was six years old
and fetching eggs when a flock of mismatched
birds landed on the parched ground that had been
our vegetable garden before heat seared and
shriveled every last zucchini and tomato. These
birds were agitated and clearly exhausted. I
looked at the sky and screamed to Mama as I ran
into our small frame farmhouse south of Cordell,
Oklahoma, "Mama, Mama, a huge black cloud is
"Quick," she shouted at me, "ring the dinner
gong to call the others in from the fields.
Every minute counts." Already Mama was reaching
for a quilt. "Then run right back in here and
help me drape this table. We'll get under our
tent to protect our lungs from flying dirt."
ten minutes the sky was completely black with
howling winds and cutting sand and dust that
could choke the life from any creature. Soon
the whole family was huddled beneath the quilts
and praying that God would spare the cows, pigs
and chickens and what was left of the crop, one
was life in the Dust Bowl Days of western
Oklahoma, our tent days and nights repeated over
and over. That natural hardship combined with
the Great Depression, was made worse by the fact
that my dad was ill and unable to work during
most of my childhood. But Daddy could do one
thing. I remember the beautiful String quilt
he made by hand my first year of school. During
Dad's convalescence, he gained a feeling of
accomplishment by creating beauty from cast-off
scraps of fabric. And the family gained needed
warm bedding. Piecing and quilting also became
Dad's therapy -- a quiet time when he could pray
and meditate on Godís promises to provide. He
dreamed of the time he and his family could join
the thousands of other farmers in their flight
for jobs and a better life in California.
Mother was forced to do most of the farm work,
she didnít have much leisure time for
needlework. But I remember the beautiful
Friendship quilt she made with all the signed
quilt blocks of church friends and family. All
the neighbor ladies gathered at our house to
complete her Friendship quilt. We prepared a
feast to celebrate, cleared away the mess, then
lowered the quilting frame from the ceiling.
Needles flew amidst much gossip and laughter.
By the end of the long day, the quilt was
finished and I had learned to quilt just from
watching. The ladies graciously allowed me to
put in the last few stitches just to appease my
incessant requests to help.
those days of little money or means,
entertainment revolved around school and church
activities. Every summer a visiting minister
came for an all-day revival under the brush
arbor. We enjoyed singing and praising God for
His faithfulness. Afterwards we shared a
potluck feast and a watermelon feed that
climaxed the unforgettable event.
1943 during World War II, Dadís dream for a
better life in California became a reality. We
moved to Sacramento. Thatís where I met my
husband, Charles, who had just returned from the
war. We married in 1947 and Charles' Mom made
us a beautiful wedding quilt, which I still
that barren landscape of the Great Depression
and Oklahoma's Dust Bowl Days were other
treasures which I hold dear. Ours was a story
of courage, hope and love in the midst of
poverty and struggles against drought and
endless dust that was as much a part of life as
sunshine and air. The hardships bound our
family together in unity and dependence on Godís
daily provision, making us stronger in our
faith, able to withstand any heartache.
"Through the Lord's mercies we
are not consumed, because His compassions fail
not. They are new every morning. Great is Your
faithfulness. 'The LORD is my portion,' says my
soul. 'Therefore I hope in Him!'" Lamentations
Quilt for Chase and Colton
as told by Kathy Wilburn
Kathy Wilburn woke with a slow stretch before
remembering the date. April 19. Years before on
this date she'd given birth to her daughter,
Edye. She rolled over and smiled into her
pillow. Edye was a grown woman and mother now,
and that umbilical connection from mother to
child had stretched to include a whole new
generation -- her sons, Colton and Chase. Kathy
glanced at the clock, and pulled herself out of
bed to dress for work. She and Edye worked in
the same building in downtown Oklahoma City.
Kathy couldn't help wonder how Edye was feeling
this morning. She'd been home with strep throat
the past two days, but her co-workers had baked
a cake and planned a surprise party at the
office. Edye knew something was up and wouldn't
want to miss it.
as Kathy suspected, Edye dropped Chase and
Colton off at the daycare located in the Alfred
P. Murrah Building before reporting for work.
Candles stood on
the birthday cake like sentinels with blazing
hats. Laughing, Edye took a deep breath and
that moment, a rental truck loaded with ammonium
nitrate blew half the nine-story Murrah building
into oblivion. Candles wobbled as the building
where Edye and Kathy worked trembled from the
Kathy could hear panic clawing at Edye's throat.
"Mom, what if it hit the boys?" They raced
through smoke, debris and falling glass to the
blast that felled the Murrah Building on April
19, 1995, left a crater in the hearts of Kathy
Wilburn and Edye Smith. Two-year old Colton and
three-year old Chase both died as a result of
nearly two weeks, the whole world watched as
exhausted rescue workers pulled bodies from the
rubble. After the smoke cleared, 168 people were
dead and 400 injured in the worst terrorist
attack to date on U.S. soil. The whole nation
mourned with the families of those slain.
the next six years, Kathy traveled the country
trying to weave together the events leading up
to that fateful day. She retraced the paths
Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols took leading
up to the bombing. She explored white
supremacist and anti-government groups. Her
investigative reports were used in the
documentary, "A Cry for Justice: The Untold
Story Behind the Oklahoma City Bombing,"
produced by MGA Films and released after Timothy
McVeigh's execution in April, 2001.
Chase and Colton's family never got to say
goodbye. They weren't even allowed to view their
bodies. Kathy clings to the chipmunk underwear
Chase wore that morning. "I've kept their
clothes and toys as reminders, because that's
all I have left of the boys," Kathy says. "On
April 19, 1995, their lives were erased, and we
were left with lives we didn't choose.
husband was furious with God, and died of
pancreatic cancer two years after the bombing. I
didn't know why the boys died, but I knew I
couldn't get through the pain without God's
grace, which has proven sufficient. I now know
that God didn't take my grandchildren, but
received them when they died."
people responded with acts of kindness, but one
stands out to Kathy Wilburn. Susan Smart, from
Enid, Oklahoma, called and asked for photos of
Colton and Chase. Six months later, Kathy's
doorbell rang and Susan presented her with a
beautiful quilt covered with all the boys'
pictures, telling the story of their lives.
Another memorial quilt featured a little boy
with angel wings in the center, surrounded by
nine patch blocks and star quilting on a cloud
print background. The penned inscription reads,
"In memory of Colton and Chase Smith, Budded on
earth to bloom in heaven. A gift of loving
stitches from Lincoln Nebraska Quilter's Guild."
"I carry the scars from that day just as if I
were burned," Kathy says. "But I've learned that
every day is a gift from God that I must spend
April 19, 1995, is one such day.
the day of Chase and Colton's death.
It's also the day their mother was born.
Sometimes the loss seems to outweigh the joy.
When that happens, Kathy wraps herself in a
quilt and the joyous memories it holds.
is sufficient for you, for My strength is made
perfect in weakness." 2 Corinthians 12:9
by Lisa Alexander
groggily answer the late-night phone call.
"Mommy," my eight-year-old daughter Emmali
whispers. "Mommy, I forgot my blanket." She is
spending the night four houses away. I suggest
that her friend will let her borrow one. "No,
Mommy. She doesn't have anything I can go to
sleep with. I need my blankie..."
The blankie! That piece of frayed cloth
Emmali carries to bed to sleep with. It was
originally part of a nursery set my mother had
made. A small quilt with glorious pastel pink
and blue angels soaring across flannel skies.
Now, the faded seraphim barely cling to the
quilt's cotton backing. As a baby, Emmali had
loved pressing the soft material against her
cherub cheeks and twisting the lacy border
between her tiny fingers.
she outgrew diapers and bottles, I began easing
the threadbare blankie from her grasp. She
reluctantly allowed me to put it up for
safekeeping with her older brother's blankets.
All three of the blankets remained tucked away
in the top of the linen closet for several
years. Then, in a day of spring-cleaning, every
towel, sheet and blanket was removed from the
closet. Emmali, then seven, spied a corner of
her blankie in the pile and quickly grabbed it,
pulling it close to her face as she had done
when she was a baby. Since reuniting with this
long-ago friend, she has nestled with it each
Except on this night, when she phones at nearly
11:00 p.m., begging me to bring it to her. No,
she says, she cannot make it through just this
one night without it. A former blankie-toting
child myself, I understand her desperation. I
plod down the stairs in search of my shoes.
"Where ya goin', Mom?" my 14 year-old son,
Riles, asks. When I tell him about the phone
call, he offers to take the blanket to his
sister. I smile, remembering the farm blankie
he had been so attached to when he was young.
He would understand.
this late night, Riles gets on his bike,
flinging Emmali's blankie over his shoulder. As
he zooms down the street, the tattered quilt
seems to transform into the cape of a superhero.
Before returning to bed, I stop by my baby's
room to hear the reassuring rhythm of her
breathing. Grace tugs at her tiny quilt as if
she is trying to catch the pastel pink, purple
and blue butterflies that flutter across it.
Butterflies of beauty they are tonight, though
faded they will surely be in years to come.
Faded, but well-loved.
them security, and they rely on it;" Job 24:23
From Rags to Riches
by Carla Burt
began as a sewing lesson for our small class of
Life Skills students in the Fall of 2002. Our
lead teacher, an experienced quilter, decided
that having each child make a quilt for someone
less fortunate could teach more than sewing
an unexpected and wonderful lesson we received!
Over the next several months the students
carefully selected, ironed, cut and sewed
donated material under the helpful eye of our
teacher, along with me, the teacher's aide, and
also with the help of our occupational
therapist. The students decided to give their
quilts to the children at the Uzwelo orphanage
in Piet Relief, South Africa -- small victims of
the AIDS pandemic.
local newspaper reporter visited the class to
view the fruits of their labors. The story and
photo of the students and the quilts appeared in
our local newspaper and then the project began
to snowball. I received telephone calls from
people whose hearts are easily touched by the
hurts and needs of others. "Could I please make
a quilt for the children?"
youth group would like to make quilts for the
"I've never quilted, by my friend is willing to
help me. May I donate a quilt?"
me, it was a humbling experience to see the
outpouring of love and concern.
June of 2003 I packed up 15 quilts and headed to
Africa to be with my daughter for the birth of
her first child. Miraculously, that number of
quilts exactly matched the number of children
and caregivers living at Uzwelo. In Africa most
people live on the edge of survival. Blankets
are treasured possessions, often used as
backpacks to carry children and later to provide
warmth for them against the freezing nights.
Arriving at Uzwelo ("Mercy" in Zulu), we
displayed these colorful gifts of love on a
fence. Africans love color. One by one,
beginning with the house mothers and down to
two-year-old Boetie ("little brother") each
member of the Uzwelo family chose his favorite
quilt. Each child, black eyes wide with awe,
waited patiently for his turn to lovingly pick
out and then to touch his quilt. Joy lit every
face as they gently lifted their quilts off the
fence. The hugs, tears, smiles and repeated
"Thank-you, Thank-you" were unspeakably
endearing as recipients delightfully wrapped
their quilts around them. The drab yard danced
as if filled with beautifully colored
of one person's cast-off rags emerged precious
riches, sent with love to bless and enrich the
lives of other, unseen, unmet, yet cared for and
valued just the same. One small act of kindness
by three young handicapped children blossomed
into blessing for many, many more, both givers
and receivers alike.
quilts have been made and sent by the youth
group at All Saints Parish in Peterboro, New
Hampshire. Funds raised by youth groups from
New Hampshire, Massachusetts and California have
enabled Wellspring Ministries in Piet Retief to
purchase a food freezer and begin a weekly food
program for mothers and children who used to
forage daily at the local dump.
light so shine before men, that they may see
your good works and glorify your Father in
heaven." Matthew 5:16