"To be honest, the day after the tornado, when I visited the destruction I wondered if Moore would ever recover," Assistant City Manager Stan Drake said. "But we've come back bigger and better,"
Drake's thoughts were like many city officials and citizens who were suddenly aware that recovering from the largest tornado in Oklahoma's history would be an incredibly trying process.
"We were all in a state of shock for the first 48 hours," Drake said.
Mayor Glenn Lewis said federal officials projected that the cleanup alone would take two and a half years. It took the city 87 days.
Lewis said despite being hit by another destructive tornado in 2003, more than 90 percent of the areas ravaged by the tornado have been rebuilt.
"We have almost completely recovered, except for the loss of life," Lewis said.
The tornado caused more damage to the city than ripping structures from their foundation. Lewis said the city lost about 5,500 citizens overnight. He said the city's population would be well above 50,000 if people had not relocated after their homes were destroyed.
"That means millions of dollars to us," Lewis said.
He said the stigma of living in a city that has been a magnet for severe weather has left many of the citizens uneasy. "I think the biggest challenge was to let people know that Moore is a safe place to live," Lewis said.
Drake agreed that the tornado scared some people away from the city.
"I talked to a lot of citizens that told me 'the good Lord is trying to tell me something,'" Drake said.
Fortunately for Moore the economic impact of the tornado was not quite as destructive. The loss of homes meant a loss of revenue from city utilities, but that loss of homes also meant that money had to be spent to replace the items lost.
City Manager Steve Eddy said increased sales tax revenue was a boon for the city, along with the traffic generated by insurance representatives and cleanup and construction crews.
Drake said the city has tried its best to spur financial recovery by waiving building permit fees and condemning slabs that have gone unprepared.
Recovery was also aided by an outpouring of support from across the world. Lewis said truckloads of lumber were delivered from Canada, and a small village in Mexico brought food to donate to the victims. He said people across the globe phoned their best wishes.
Drake said the key to recovery was the cohesiveness between city officials and the residents.
"They helped us more than we helped them," Drake said. "You have to admire people who have lost all their possessions and still keep a good attitude."
Lewis said it took the work of the entire community for the recovery effort to be successful.
"We're a much closer knit community now," Lewis said.
Eddy said that rebuilding Kelley Elementary, which was leveled by the tornado, "was important in getting that sense of neighborhood back."
Mayor Lewis marvels at the progress Moore has made since that fateful day.
"This city has come a long way
since that day," Lewis said.