CALUMET — A plume of dark curly hair runs down the middle of 4-month old Zuri Lewis' little head.
She wiggles in her mother Miranda Lewis' left arm. The baby makes spit bubbles and curls her tiny toes.
Not 10 feet away, Zuri's 7-year-old brother, Copper, snaps the back tires onto a Lego truck, then rolls the toy on the hardwood coffee table. The toys are new and a sign of calmer days, much calmer than the one that swept his toys away last year.
Oklahomans experienced a calmer May this year in terms of tornadic activity. The preliminary count for the month stands at four tornadoes in Oklahoma, a significant decline from the 90 tornadoes in May 2010 and 46 last year.
The twisters in 2011 included a deadly EF5 on May 24. The Lewis family lives southwest of Calumet. They lost their house and possessions, but not each other.
On May 27 this year, the Lewis family moved into their new house. The location up on the hill is the same, but they view life much differently.
Miranda's husband, Jesse, and Copper, then age 6, were in Elk City at the time the tornado struck. Miranda and the baby she'd only known for five days were safe in a shelter at a friend's house about four miles down the rural Canadian County road.
When Miranda returned, the house was a nightmarish heap. But her eyes fixed on the tattered box springs spun around an oak tree across the road.
She crumbled. She knew these had been on her son's bed. She connected what she saw in that tree with what could have been, and she lost it.
“When I saw those, I knew I could have lost him if we'd been there,” she said. “Losing your things is hard, but it's no big deal. It's nothing compared to losing somebody you love.
“We have everything we need. We have the four of us and a lot of hope to move forward.”
As friends, family and strangers dug through the destruction on May 25, 2011, Miranda commented, “The wind in Oklahoma is furious to say the least, and we experienced that on Tuesday, but I believe that whatever the wind blew in, it had goodness in it.”
She never doubted that was true.
There were tearful nights in Copper's temporary bedroom at a nearby rent house.
His Legos fire truck, battery operated trash truck and his toy Dodge pickup were gone. Those winds mom talked about, took them, and the 6-year-old didn't understand. He cried. She cried.
“For a kid, one year out of his life is a big chunk,” she said. “For the rest of us, it's just a fraction of life.
“It's really hard to press to him upon him that this is difficult, but we have everything we need.”
Miranda said she didn't question whether or not God was doing good things in their life. She still fully believed that. She cried with Copper because he needed her to grieve with him and because it's really hard to watch your children try to deal with something like this.
“It was hard to see him going through something so difficult and so hard to explain,” she said. “Crying was one of the best things we could do to sort of release the grief and the loss. And my son needed to know that I understood his grief and loss. ”
For families affected by the tornado, this wasn't just a terrible event. This was a life-changing event in the midst of daily changes. Life already was challenging.
The Lewises had some very close friends whose son had been born in March 2011 with a congenital heart disease. The situation would improve and worsen. He died in August.
“We just dealt with the loss of property, and they lost a five-month old son,” she said. “There's no comparison.”
Within the last year, three of the Lewis' neighbors also have died. One man suffered a fatal heart attack. Then close to Christmas an older couple died within a short-time of each other.
A new perspective
The tornado May 24 was so strong it twisted a metal shipping container, and yet there were unbroken eggs spread out on the floor. The twister sucked the furniture out of the house and tossed it in every direction. Yet there was a glass vase found on the ground in great shape although the table it had been on was smashed.
While those things were hard for Miranda to understand, other things puzzled her, as well.
How could a stranger pull into her driveway as they were cleaning up, roll down the window, hand her a $100 bill and wish her a blessed day? How could Mary Ellison just walk up and say “I want to buy you a new outfit right now”? Why would Patti Betts rush over to say “I'm doing your laundry; bring me everything”?
Facebook “was just blowing up” with friends from all over the U.S. organizing different benefits.
Again, those winds left Miranda with a new perspective.
“How could you not want to pay that goodness forward?” she said. “It's given us that opportunity. Maybe it's paying for a meal or helping someone move a tractor or stopping for someone having car trouble. It's doesn't have to be a big thing to mean a lot.
“The man we barely knew who spent hours picking up glass had no idea what that meant to us.”
Salvaged from the debris was Miranda's wedding dress, as well as Jesse's wedding ring. Friends also found the full quill ostrich boots Jesse had bought for their wedding.
So, before summer is over, Jesse and Miranda will have their wedding pictures retaken.
They can't find the photos taken July 10, 2004, at a little chapel in Oklahoma City. But these will mean even more.
The couple will dress in their wedding clothes, take Copper and Zuri with them and go down by the Canadian River.
They'll celebrate, faith, life and love, Miranda said with tears in a dead heat down her cheeks.
“It's the elements that make up your life,” she said. “It is not the stuff that makes it.
“I didn't ever second guess myself about saying that goodness blew in with the wind. It was a difficult time, but we never lost sight of how lucky and blessed we were. We still had to grieve about it, but we knew we were in God's hands.”