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Survivor Story: Kay Engle

By Jesse Olivarez Modified: May 1, 2009 at 4:25 pm •  Published: May 1, 2009
MOORE — Kay Engle, principal of Kelley Elementary, may very well owe her life to a last minute change of plan.

When school let out on May 3, 1999, Engle decided to stay late and start work on a state report that would soon be due. But after working a short while the gusto left her.

“Something in my head said, ‘No you better go on home,” she said. “So I got up...and started out the door and turned around and looked back at my desk and I thought, ‘Hmmm, it'll be there tomorrow.'”

About an hour later, the tornado tore through Moore and blew away most of the school and the surrounding neighborhood.

Over the next few days, she learned that all of her students and staff had survived the storm but the school was a complete loss.

Classes resumed seven days later at other locations in the district. It would take a full year but the school was reconstructed on the same spot.

Looking back, Engle said divine providence played a role in keeping her and her schools students and staff safe that day.

“I consider it God's grace that we did not lose any more than we did,” she said. “That was an F-5 tornado. It was horrific.”

Engle has kept three mementos from the old school: a brick, a chalkboard eraser and a sheet of paper. The paper, which is her favorite of the three, is a framed copy of the Kelley Elementary Creed. The paper is torn and wrinkled and its age evident from its yellow tinge.

The paper was found in Cushing, about 55 miles away.

Engle said having those near her desk remind her of those tough times but also that the school is not a building but the students themselves.


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