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Oklahoma tornadoes: After losing everything families find hope in volunteers

The owners of two houses destroyed by twisters 50 miles apart find hope in community outreach from friends, family and strangers.
BY MEGAN ROLLAND Published: May 26, 2011

It's a wrenching, emotional feeling to see your house destroyed, all your possessions spread across the front lawn and not know if your neighbors and animals are safe, survivors of two tornadoes said Wednesday.

“It was kind of like someone hit you right in your gut to see your house in pieces like that,” said Brad Beller, whose home in McClain County was destroyed Tuesday.

But in the aftermath, as strangers, colleagues, students and a small-town mayor helped pick up the pieces, it was hard not to be in high spirits.

“Some people call a tornado an act of God, but the act of God is when people come out to help, strangers. People from local restaurants brought food, people we didn't know asked us if we needed any heavy equipment,” said Ed Neuenschwander, whose house in Piedmont was leveled by a tornado.

Neuenschwander, chairman of the physics department at Southern Nazarene University, and his wife, an elementary schoolteacher in Bethany, were on their way home when a twister that started several miles southwest passed through their neighborhood.

“We pull up into the driveway; there was no house, just a pile of rubble and our pickup sitting on top of our Toyota,” Neuenschwander said. “I would have liked to see how that happened.”

One of their horses died, but both of their dachshunds survived the storm locked in their kennels and sheltered by a bureau that fell just right.

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