By Blake Zimmerman
Big 12 Campus Correspondent
Oklahoma State’s Taylor Monaghan is an Oklahoma kid, born and raised.
The Tulsa, Okla., native was a three-time All-State selection in cross country, won the 1,600 and 3,200 meter track and field state titles his senior year and was the Oklahoma Gatorade Runner of the Year.
He is familiar with plenty of things associated with Oklahoma, including the weather.
Anyone who has lived in Oklahoma for any period of time has more than likely been affected by a tornado. Whether one just barely passes by and scares you to a room in your house, or hits and takes something away, it’s all too familiar to the residents.
That’s why on May 22, 2011, when an EF5 multiple vortex tornado struck Joplin, Mo., just 70 miles away from Springfield, Mo., where Monaghan’s grandparents live, he knew what to expect and that the city would need help.
“Joplin is right in between [Stillwater] and Springfield,” Monaghan said. “We drive through Joplin every time we go to see my grandparents, so when the tornado hit, we got together as a family and decided to help.”
The Monaghan family joined with a local church group to help. Monaghan said the decision to help was an easy one.
“Just seeing it on the news and seeing how much people had lost was a huge motivator,” Monaghan said. “We’ve lived in Oklahoma our whole lives and been fortunate enough to never get hit. I feel like if I lost everything like that and someone showed up to help me, that would be awesome.”
Monaghan said he couldn’t believe what he saw when they arrived at the scene.
“At first, we drove through the affected areas and the destruction was eye-opening,” Monaghan said. “Obviously, being from Oklahoma, you hear about this stuff all the time, but seeing it was different. It was weird. One block would be fine, and the next would be totally gone. We saw houses that were down to the bare concrete and foundation. It was unreal to see how it was possible in that short amount of time, to lose something like a house.”
Monaghan ended up at a giant warehouse, which was packed full with various donations from people who wanted to help the cause. Monaghan said he never saw anything like it.
“It was huge,” Monaghan said. “It was unbelievable how much stuff they had. The warehouse was massive, but it was still packed to the ceiling with stuff people had given. There was food, diapers, clothes, books, laptops—just things many people needed—it was impressive. Our job was to get all that stuff organized, and put together backpacks for kids to go to school, because school was starting at that point and many kids didn’t have any supplies after the tornado.”
Monaghan said it was great to watch as something so terrible was able to bring so many people together.
“It was cool because we weren’t the only group there, obviously,” Monaghan said. “It was great to see everyone come together to try to work things out. There were people just working and helping out all over. That was probably the best part. I couldn’t imagine being one of those kids, going to school with nothing. Being able to put together those backpacks and help create some normalcy was great.”
Joplin instantly crossed Monaghan’s mind on May 20, 2013, when an EF5 tornado ripped through Moore, Okla., creating similar scenes of destruction closer to home.
“We had an outdoor track and field meet in Austin that weekend, so we drove through Moore right after it happened,” Monaghan said. “I was thinking about my experience in Joplin, and I really wanted to help, but being right in the middle of the track and field postseason put that on hold.”
Dave Smith, OSU cross country/track and field head coach, said Monaghan’s act is reflective of who he is as a person and a teammate.
“He’s a very compassionate person,” Smith said. “He’s one of those guys who would do anything for anyone, especially his family and teammates. He’s a guy that a lot of people count on. When I learned he went to help out with the tornado, it didn’t surprise me. He’s a hard-working, blue-collar guy. When he came here, even though he wasn’t as highly recruited, he had a tenacious attitude. He was adamant about coming here and becoming an All-Big 12 and All-American-type athlete, and he has a chance to be an All-American in cross country this year.
Monaghan said even today--two years later--when he makes the trek to see his grandparents in Springfield, he can still see signs of what took place in Joplin.
“You can still see the effects,” Monaghan said. “The biggest things were the school and hospital that got hit. They were torn apart, but now with things getting rebuilt, it definitely looks a lot better. It was cool knowing that I was a part of that process of helping people get back on their feet.”