MOORE — Antonia Candelaria and Emily Conatzer were best friends and neighbors.
The little girls died side by side. Plaza Towers Elementary took a direct hit May 20. The EF5 tornado killed seven third-grade children as they hid from the storm in a hallway. The hallway where they sheltered was buried by a collapsed wall.
The tornado alley school had no safe room or shelter.
Kristi Conatzer, mom to Emily, who would have been 10 next week, doesn’t want other Oklahoma families to suffer like hers has. She wants shelters in Oklahoma schools.
That’s why she and other parents of children who died that day gathered at a church in the town Tuesday evening, the three-month anniversary of the disaster that claimed the lives of the children.
Conatzer wants to see a school shelter mandate and said government inaction upsets her.
“I think there should be a mandate for it,” she said before a news conference at the First Baptist Church, 301 NE 27th St.
“Lawmakers should have assessed the situation back in ’99,” she said, referencing the deadly tornado 14 years ago that claimed lives and destroyed portions of Moore.
Briarwood Elementary School, which, like Plaza Towers, took a direct hit and was reduced to splinters, did not have a shelter, though no students died there.
In late May, Rep. Joe Dorman, D-Rush Springs, pushed for a $500 million bond package to provide funding for storm shelters at schools and communities.
With the legislative session winding down and many Republicans balking at additional state bonds, the proposal didn’t go anywhere.
Gov. Mary Fallin said at the time she would consider supporting a program for school safe rooms and shelters following the initial disaster recovery effort, and an assessment of which schools already have shelters.
Two state representatives, whose districts in south Oklahoma City and Moore were shredded by the twister, started the nonprofit ShelterOklahomaSchools.org to raise private money for the initiative.