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A Personal Account: When You Can't Go Home

By Nolan Clay Modified: April 21, 2009 at 11:30 am •  Published: May 4, 1999

Editor's note: While covering the aftermath of the tornado that struck Moore on Monday, Oklahoman staff writer Nolan Clay discovered his own house at 324 Cedar Lane had been destroyed. No one was home at the time.

MOORE - Phillip was crying. "Bye bye , birdie," the 5-year-old said softly while clutching a teddy bear. His dad hugged him tighter.

He'd lost his pet bird, a pet hamster, his favorite swing set, his new bike and his home. His pet dog survived. Phillip's family had fled to a friend's shelter. He was my next-door neighbor.

We stood before the ruins of our homes and I asked his dad, a minister, "Why did God do this?"

"I don't believe God does this," the Rev. Bob Younts said. "It's just one of those freaky occurences that happens."

Across Cedar Lane, rescuers worked to free three other neighbors from the debris.

The walls "began to move and the roof collapsed," said Lee McKinnis as he limped from his home. "I'm still shaken."

The tornado hit about 7:30 p.m., smashing homes, toppling cars, ripping away roofs and downing power lines.

"Anybody home?" rescuers cried, moving up and down Cedar Lane and Bellaire Drive in north Moore. One rescuer, tow-truck driver Jason Hight, said, "Moore didn't need this. We've just recovered from the last one."

He hurried two houses down to help about 30 men toss aside the debris where an elderly woman once lived alone.

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