Oklahoma tornadoes: Blanchard woman feared she might be ‘buried alive' when tornado hit

For the first time ever, Mary Ritter, 79, took shelter in her storm cellar when a massive tornado tore through the Blanchard area. When the cellar door flew off, debris poured in on top of her and she thought she might be buried alive.
BY JANE GLENN CANNON jcannon@opubco.com Published: May 27, 2011
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— For the first time ever, Mary Ritter, 79, took shelter in her storm cellar when a massive tornado tore through the Blanchard area. When the cellar door flew off, debris poured in on top of her and she thought she might be buried alive.

“I had to climb over all this stuff to get out. I came out yelling, ‘help, help.' I came out where there used to be a porch and thought, ‘I don't have a porch left.' Then I looked around and I didn't have nothin'. It wiped me all out,” she said.

What remained of Ritter's house was stacked “sky high — and there was my car upside down on top of it,” she said.

She sat under a shade tree Thursday and talked about the experience while her children and grandchildren combed through the wreckage for photographs and pieces of jewelry. She particularly hoped they'd find her wedding ring.

A son-in-law cut trees and piled up brush to clear the five-acre piece of land that has been Ritter's home for 18 years.

Her home was one of about 200 destroyed or damaged in the Blanchard area. Another 100 to 150 homes were damaged or destroyed in Newcastle, about 10 miles to the north.

“I tell you, it made a believer out of me. I've never been to a cellar in my life, but next time they tell me to go, I'm going,” she said.

About a minute after getting inside the shelter, the tornado struck.

“It hit boom, like someone set off something. Then the lid came off and all this stuff just started pouring down the stairs. I backed up as far as I could, but I was thinking, ‘oh, Lord, I am going to be buried alive down here.'”

‘It broke my heart'

Daughter Kathy Ritter, of Oklahoma City, said she was frantic to get to her mother's place.

“I knew she wouldn't go to the shelter. I called my sister and said, ‘you know she won't go to the cellar,' but thank God, she did,” Kathy Ritter said.

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