NEWALLA — Denise Halpin learned about the power of volunteers when people helped her after a tornado demolished her home in Moore on May 3, 1999. So on Wednesday, she was helping Ted Hensley two days after a tornado blew the roof off his home near in Newalla. Halpin’s teenage son, Cody Brown, and two of his friends were picking up debris and cutting away downed trees. They have free time on their hands because tornado damage has closed their school in Little Axe. "It’s not anything you want to see anybody have to go through,” she said. "You’re picking up your memories from the front yard. It’s really devastating. My heart goes out to these people.” Halpin said. Hensley, 48, returned from a business trip Tuesday to find the top of his house gone, his possessions sprawled across the block and his five cats roaming the streets. "It’s pretty overwhelming,” he said. In 1999, the roles of Hensley and Halpin were reversed. It was Hensley’s home in Moore that survived the storm untouched, and he had lent a hand to his less fortunate neighbors. The returned favor meant something to Hensley who said he otherwise wouldn’t have known what to do. "They cleaned up all the trees in my front yard. They are picking up my personal belongings that they find and bringing it back to me. It’s unbelievable,” he said. No one was at home when the tornado struck Hensley’s house. The brick walls of the single-story home were mostly intact, but the garage was destroyed, the roof was gone, and Hensley said his insurance agent told him the house at 5601 Sunset Ridge Road was "totaled.” The Halpins, who now live in Choctaw, were indirectly affected by the same tornado outbreak that damaged Hensley’s home. Brown’s friends joked that it was nice to be out of school, but said it felt good to be able to help out in the aftermath of the storm. "You don’t know what to do when something like this happens,” Hensley said. "You just don’t know.”
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