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Oklahoma tornadoes: Keepsakes returned to Moore family

by Juliana Keeping Modified: July 13, 2013 at 7:29 pm •  Published: July 14, 2013

A little yellow craft with pink, purple and orange flowers caught her eye.

“Zoe,” it said in bright, bubbly letters.

The letters expressed warmth, humor and faith, painting a picture of a close-knit family.

“How is my favorite preteen?” reads one letter, addressed to Amber.

“P.S. I would not trade you for all the M&M's in the world. Love, your ever loving Dad,” it ends.

It was obvious that these were keepsakes, Cooper said.

She and the cameraman debated taking them away — the letters didn't belong to them. Because she feared rain would destroy the notes, Cooper took them with her anyway.

Then she had to find the owners.

Enlisting the help of Oklahoma City radio station, she described the notes and the people in them on air July 10 with the help of Lee Mathews with KTOK-AM 1000.

A friend called Amber and told her to listen to the radio.

Amber didn't have a radio any more.

But a series of connections listening came together to get Amber Kriesel's number to Cooper.

Family reunion

On Saturday, Cooper met the family at the place where their home once stood to return the notes, and to do a follow-up story on the destruction.

She asked thoughtful questions and handed out hugs.

“It means more when it's home,” Cooper said.

She handed the yellow craft back to its owner, Zoe.

Her parents were thankful to get a few sentimental possessions back — some of them were kept for 30 years, including notes from grandparents who had passed away.

The reporter's good deed felt special and unexpected, Amber Kriesel said.

The sisters played on the plot that was their home, digging in the sandy ground with sticks and bits of plastic on the property.

The Kriesel family is staying at a rental home in Moore, and they plan to rebuild.

The humor, faith and love expressed in those letters remains intact.

The things are gone but that bathtub remains. Its exterior was concaved by the tornado, and it is slightly bent.

It's in the backyard of the rental, the word “Ark” painted on its side.

At the new house, the family will plant flowers in it.

by Juliana Keeping
Enterprise Reporter
Juliana Keeping is on the enterprise reporting team for The Oklahoman and Keeping joined the staff of The Oklahoman in 2012. Prior to that time, she worked in the Chicago media at the SouthtownStar, winning a Peter Lisagor Award...
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