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More strong, the stories of May 20th. There is a very large tornado, almost wedge, cutting right towards more Oklahoma. We remember the frightening day that changed our city once again. I basically told people in the building that it needed to be prepared to take tornado cover. Here, chilling stories from survivors in their own words. I thought we were really gone. Everything behind us, everything in front of us is gone. See how our city leaders used past experiences to help citizens through their darkest hour. I can relive all of the meetings where we just all sat and just continued to ask the question, are we doing enough and what else can we do? This story is not only about the devastation. This is a story of hope, courage and community, a community that is strong. And now part one of more strong, the stories of May 20th. It shows that in some way we're all united.
We're all woven together and we're just people. And they understand and can relate to the hurt that this community was feeling and it hurt them. And they wanted to do whatever it was that they could, whether it be to write a letter, or to write a check, or to send supplies to help in some way. They're sacred to us because it's somebody that took the time to fit their thoughts on paper and get them to us. And we don't have a post office so they really went to some great lengths to get these items to us. The weather service had one of their briefings that morning and it was one of those days where you can kind of feel it in the air too when the weather service is telling you and also you can feel it in the air. So we knew that it was one of those days, one of those possible days.
I was actually at a conference with all of the national retailers from around the U.S. and even international to the one year, one time a year that we go to recruit retail. I had sent an email to our city manager, Steve Edie, that if tornadoes were to hit our community on Monday, the Dieter and I would be coming back from the conference. Well, I had been watching it downstairs in the EOC on Galen's radar as well as on the television, weather channels, watching it for quite a long time. While we were at the conference, it was around noon and we saw on the television the tornado coming to our community. The tornado appears to be on the ground looking due west. We are in more Oklahoma than date, it is May 20th. When it first touched down, it was fairly small.
It was still a decent way to bust a town so it still had a chance that maybe it wouldn't grow very big or it wouldn't continue for too long and miss, you know, maybe dissipate before town. But as it kept coming, it got bigger and bigger and we got to the parking lot of the South Horn High School where we filmed it from. Very large tornado entry in town. This is a repeat of May 3rd, 99. This is a repeat of May 3rd, 99. It was obvious at that point that there was no way this thing was going to die any time soon and the only track was going to go on any way it moved. It was possible that it was through a very densely populated area. Basically, two people in the building needed to be prepared to take tornado cover which
in this building is basically the bathrooms on the first floor. We saw that the debris just kind of splatted down and came down so we knew that it was close. We've experienced one of our most horrific storms and disasters that the state has ever faced. But yet in the midst of tragedy and loss of life, we've also seen the resilience and the courage and the strength of our people.
We're talking levels of debris that's 4 foot high as far as you can see. We're talking about cars that are upside down and schoolbooks and children's toys and trees without bark. This was the storm of storms. This has been quite a experience. I was the actual mayor here in May 3rd, 1999. So this is not my first rodeo with this, but it doesn't get any easier, especially with the loss of life. We've seen it on a map or seen it on a television screen, but then when you're driving through and you know the people that live in the homes and you know that it was awful. Just a matter of minutes, things that took years to build and to grow and develop and just
a matter of minutes was flattened and leveled and so you stand there and you look at that stuff and you're just amazed at what has happened. Your question at some time says to me, why, but there's no answer to that question, you know. On his laced company, heard it on the news. We keep the truck here in the storage bin, got to the gate, the power gone out. We couldn't get in the gate. The lady hollered at us with to put a car back. We didn't feel safe over here. She came up in her place, me and him and the other worker here and another guy. We went into Dan McGuinness and wrote it out and we heard it come over. We had no idea that he did this and when we come out, everything's gone. I mean the whole storage place is gone. This is the craziest thing I've ever been in my life.
I thought we were really gone. I thought we were done. We had everything behind us, everything in front of us is gone but us. We were hiding underneath the bathroom sink just as we could pray and God don't take us. I just, I'm never in my life experience, I'm so scared. I just hope everybody else in here is okay. I hope there's nobody else in these buildings because we can't. We've hollered and hollered. We can't hear nothing. Hello, somebody here? What happened?
My house got blown away. What just happened? It's gone. No, nobody. I know what it is. I can always rebuild. You must fix the retire in December. It looks like I'm not going to now, so. No, I can always rebuild. It can be a real place. This is the rescue job. We came home. We finally made home and found this. And she was here by herself. Some friends of ours, childhood friends of our son were already over here digging for her because they knew that she was here by herself. And when we heard her barking, they started growing stuff trying to get down into a hole where she was. And she would just down tucked into this one little spot that didn't cave in. We all rushed to the boys' restroom and the girls' restroom.
And then we all ducked in there. And then all of a sudden, we could just hear it sounded like a train. My kids, I knew, weren't underground. So I panicked. And of course, it was pouring down rain. I couldn't get there fast enough. But they finally got a hold of us through our cell phones. So I knew they were both okay. And when I saw them, I was so thrilled to see them. I mean, I don't think we've ever hugged each other so tight. It was my first one, so I was pretty scared. But me and my friends started praying and God has hand over us too. How did you get out? There was a hole in the wall, so we climbed through the hole in a line. The school building is about 150 yards from my house. But I had to go around the block. So, you know, it was five minutes. The time we got in the house, we just had a couple of minutes to grab things
and tried to check on my neighbor. Saw the tornado down the street. And we got in the storm shelter with the cat. And what rain has broken down? Third grade. My teacher, she slammed the door and then she came out. And she said, everybody on your hands needs. Like, before you know it, the door slam opens back. And like, everything's flying. And a glass did to me and I just picked it up and I started screaming. And then, like, bam, everything's on top of you. You heard it. Yeah. You were singing, weren't you? And your friend was singing, y'all locked arms. And was singing the whole time. It's devastating. I've never seen anything like it. They've got cars inside the hospital. You know, I mean, you can see that truck's setting up there. It's just peeping them up and slung them inside the hospital.
So, I hope everybody over there is okay. It was really quiet for a little bit before we started hearing it. It was like, you know, it was just like, you know, it was just like, you know, it was just like, you know, it was just like, you know, it was just like, you know, it started hearing it. It was like, just peaceful. And then, all of the sudden, we started hearing it getting rumbling closer and closer. My boys and I set a little prayer and we asked them to keep us in his sheltering arms, and we bent over and pipped pillows on top of us, and I told the boys I was going to cover them with my body and we just, I talked to them the whole time so they wouldn't, they would hear my voice the whole time. I told them just don't look up, don't look up. I went through this in 2003, so 10 years ago, I went through this and lost my house totally then. So, you know, this stuff, it's stuff. It can be replaced, it's stuff. Here's the things that can't be replaced.
Yeah, baby. Ooh. More strong, the stories of May 20th. We see the overwhelming response from far and wide after the devastating tornado. A lot of press, lots of calls began to be coming in from all over the over creation, all over the world, really. See how city officials pulled together to respond. I know that everybody's heart and minds
were in the right place and how we were able to do that. I have no idea. It was superhuman strength. Be encouraged by volunteers who made it their mission to help more heal. We've had over 10,000 volunteers come through these doors that are from all over the United States. And now the conclusion to more strong, the stories of May 20th. The police and fire know immediately that they've got to get out there and start responding. They also know that they've got to call in everybody that we have as far as employees. There's nothing normal about city hall for several weeks, maybe even several months.
A lot of what your normal job is or are normally doing with parks or this or that. That's good on hold. Indeed, our eBree director of economic development for the city of Moore. And I have multiple messages from multiple entities, in an emergency and in situations like this. No one really at city hall does their jobs, actually. So we all have requirements that are thrust upon us, that are a lot different usually than what our jobs are. Many of our employees were affected. And when you see an employee whose house is completely gone and they show up for work the same day, and they're here to answer phones and to help our citizens, there's not a whole lot more you can say. So we're doing the very best. I didn't think about the before. I didn't think about how ironic. I block out everybody except the people who are affected. I do my best to try to think from a survivor's perspective to try to think from those that lost everything's perspective.
When the tornado on the 20th, when it occurred, while it was occurring, while it was happening, my phone immediately began to ring. I got phone calls from CNN, Fox, from the BBC. We were receiving calls at a rate that I can't even express how many of the media were trying to call and get information from us. A lot of press, a lot of calls began to be coming in from all over the world. Well, thank you all for coming out this afternoon. We are trying to give daily updates on different things that are going on with a cleanup effort
and the people who have been affected by these storms. I can tell you that it's a little smaller through here, and then there's about three smaller areas that are still barricaded off. And you will know that because there are officers there at checkpoints or there are barricades that you cannot get through. You have to weigh the safety of the rescuers, the safety of the citizens themselves, the safety of the people in those areas against the need and the desire by those people to get back and see what's left of their home, deserve as much as they can, their valuable pictures, and that sort of thing to be able to find things that are mementos and things that are important to them. So there's a balance there. I can relive all of the meetings where we just all sat and just continued to ask the question, are we doing enough and what else can we do? We labored over every night that there was still a checkpoint in place and what did it mean for those citizens
and if their checkpoint was there, it kept them safe but then it also kept them away from their property and every day, every hour we re-evaluated. The residents are able to freely come and go. It's worked out really well. We just, again, ask our residents be a little bit patient with this. There are going to be temporary closures here and there for the next possibly a couple of weeks, due to OG&E trying to get the power back up. Our department heads, most of them were here in 2003 and in 1999. You just know what's going to happen, but by and large what the issues are going to be, definitely those storms in the past that we've had to help prepare us all for this one. I know that everybody's heart and minds were in the right place and how we were able to do that. I have no idea. It was superhuman strength to be able to sit around the table with those leaders and come up with the ideas that we came up with and be able to execute the way that we did.
I'm just so proud of the jobs that they did in each one of the department heads yet, but also all the people that work under them. They're one of those guys and ladies had a plan and they were implementing it from day one. I think the 99 storm did it first. I think it revealed the character of more to be people that are caring, people with very resilient, people that are concerned about their neighbors, people that are generous, people that are just outstanding people. It was just that constant feeling of hopelessness and wanting to give up and then just within a second of that feeling of despair, a call, a text, a Facebook post, a something that just said, you can do this, we're here to help, we're ready, we're coming. This debris removal is a huge, huge thing
and that's important to the community to get that stuff gone just from the looks of how it looks. It looks so scarred and so bad out there now, but when that debris is gone, you know, that'll begin to fade away and it'll be an opportunity for a lot now to be built on. I have a little jig here, so that way when I give it to somebody to do, I have an order I could put in the number. The assistance was so overwhelming that it was far bigger than what we could control or what we could manage and so we really just had to lean on faith-based organizations and other groups to assist us with that. Serve more is just a volunteer organization that kind of popped up on May 21st
and just started with me and my neighborhood just wanted to come and see Helen Earth. We could start helping some of the folks that live here. The word got out pretty quickly and we just started getting a lot of phone calls, a lot of text messages, Facebook, Twitter, just letting people know, hey, this is where we're at, we could use a lot more help. And as we said that, a lot more help came and people started showing up kind of out of nowhere. And then this amazing thing happened where walking down Howard Street and the guys from the Covenant Life Assembly came out of this gym and just said, hey, once you guys know, it looks like you're volunteering, you're doing stuff. We've got water, we've got bathrooms. If you need anything, just let us know. And so we came in and said, well, how about letting us use your building? And they said, absolutely, we'd love to give it to the city and just serve in any way that we can. It was Tuesday afternoon that as we started working just as this thing started to come together, Todd Jensen from Parks Department said,
would it be possible for us to get some of your volunteers to come help with the cemetery work? So we said, yeah, let's do what we can to get a couple hundred, maybe 300 volunteers. If we could, we said we'd shoot for 300. And that morning, we gathered in this gym and the place was packed. And it looked to us like maybe 600 people or so were packed into this gym. And then we realized outside the front doors, people were standing outside because they couldn't get in. We've had over 10,000 volunteers come through these doors that are from all over the United States that just packed up their car, brought their rakes and their shovels and their wheelbarrows and came on down and have just been here to help out. So you're going to be the team leader? Yeah, I'm going to have you sign in. COVID-19 Never have seen anything like it.
I hope they don't ever again, but it will be well to have. But hopefully, that's the only time I've ever seen it again was having the help of somebody else. It was so eerie that it was once populated and now it's just flat. And I'm thinking, where did they all go? Or were they? We're all that came through. And I just can't believe all the wreckage that the wind can do. The World of War As we watch the news, we ask the question, what can we do? We're just here to be the hands and feet of Jesus Christ and try to show His love to others. When there was a call, you said, meet it. If you got the ability and the time and the resources, then meet that call. I mean, we all sit in our homes and say, well, I wish I could be. Well, forget the wish. Get on your feet and get to move it.
It's all worth it, yes, as we have mingled with people in the community and have just had them shake our hands and say thank you so much for coming and hopefully we're restoring some hope and humanity in our nation today. At our church, we talk a lot about loving the city and this has been just a really rubber meets the road. Do we really believe what we say we believe when our faith gets tested and when things get hard? Are we really going to come and in some ways lay our lives down to serve the people that live here and to serve the city itself? We're not professionals, we just live here. And we've just seen this incredible thing that it just feels like God has built around us because we just showed up and said, we want to serve our city and we want to serve families. It's been really special to have organizations like the Red Cross and FEMA and AmeriCorps come in and say, hey, we heard you guys are leading the charge. How do we come alongside you and help you? Who are you guys? And we just get to say we're just a collection of local churches. We live here, this is our city and we love it and we're here to serve it.
We're here to serve the city and we want to serve our city. We're here to serve it. We're here to serve it. We're here to serve it. We're here to serve it. We're here to serve it.
Thank you very much.
Moore Strong - His/View
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OETA (Oklahoma City, Oklahoma)
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Episode Description
Footage of the EF-5 tornado that hit Moore, OK on May 20, 2013, causing 24 fatalities. Clips of addresses made by Mary Fallin - governor, Mick Cornett - OKC mayor, and Glenn Lewis - Moore mayor. Interview with Plaza Towers Elementary School survivors and their parents. Seven students died in the tornado. Interview with Briarwood Elementary School survivors. Interviews with Deidre Ebrey - Moore Economic Developer, Mark Hamm - Moore City Councilman. Covers the city's response, faith-based organizations assisted with recovery. Summary
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Copyright Oklahoma Educational Television Authority (OETA). Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (
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OETA - Oklahoma Educational Television Authority
Identifier: PG15122CC (OETA (Oklahoma Educational Television Authority))
Duration: 01:00:00:00
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Chicago: “Moore Strong - His/View,” OETA, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed June 16, 2024,
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APA: Moore Strong - His/View. Boston, MA: OETA, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from