Jon Hansen had helped with tornado recovery efforts before.
As the fire department spokesman, he’d stood knee-deep in rubble after the Oklahoma City bombing. He bore witness to the aftermath of the tragedy and helped relay what he’d seen to millions of people around the world.
He knew devastation.
But he’d never seen anything like May 3, 1999.
That day, Fire Chief Gary Marrs was out of town. That left Hansen and another assistant fire chief, Kenneth Bunch, in charge on one of the worst days in metro history.
Earlier on, it seemed that Norman would face the bulk of the storm damage. Hansen went to Station 9, the southernmost fire station in Oklahoma City, and started organizing a task force to assist Norman firefighters.
“We were in the station, watching the meteorologists on TV, and they said it was starting to turn,” Hansen said. “It was going to track across ... Oklahoma City into Del City and Midwest City.”
The tornado swept just south of Station 9. Immediately, reports came in of damage to Westmoore High School. Hansen and other firefighters headed that direction, but quickly realized the scope of the destruction. They set up a command post at SW 119 and Western Avenue and began coordinating with police and other responding agencies.
“You would think a metro area the size of Oklahoma City would have almost unlimited resources,” Hansen said.