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A decade after twister, Bridge Creek marks survival

BY CARLA HINTON Modified: May 4, 2009 at 10:32 am •  Published: May 4, 2009
BRIDGE CREEK — School Superintendent Terry Brown opened the doors of Bridge Creek Schools for disaster relief efforts after a tornado barreled through Bridge Creek on May 3, 1999. He probably ran into Kelley McClain, a nurse’s aide immersed in medical efforts at a temporary triage set up in a school gym.

Rusty Gilbert was in the area, as well, driving down Sara Road searching for signs in what once was a bustling neighborhood.

A worship service marked by their collective faith and hope drew them together on Sunday, a decade later, at Ridgecrest Baptist Church. The church’s former building was one of those destroyed on Sara Road.

"Folks, without the Lord, we wouldn’t have done what we did,” said Brown, now Earlsboro schools superintendent. "God moved in a mighty way after the tornado came through.”

Brown alluded to Bridge Creek residents’ tireless efforts to aid one another and the hundreds of volunteers from other places who poured into the Grady County area to do the same.

About 300 people gathered Sunday for Ridgecrest’s "Surthrivor Service,” where the Rev. David Rivers talked about how the community had survived the storm and is thriving today.

"You’re surthrivors,” the senior pastor told those gathered. "As a community you were given an opportunity to serve others and will be able to offer comfort to others in similar situations.”

Gilbert, of Warr Acres, and fellow Oklahoma Baptist Disaster Relief Team volunteer Dean Kiser, were among about 25 team members who served hamburgers, hot dogs and other food after Sunday’s service.

Remembering May 3, 1999
Stories, videos and more: The Oklahoman looks back on one of the most frightening days in our state's recent history


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