MOORE — The sisters covered their ears and closed their eyes.
There was a bulldozer nearby; it beeped and banged and scraped the ground of the neighborhood.
Kaley, 6, and twins Zoe and Sophie, 4, scooted closer to mom and dad, Amber and Nathan Kriesel, on Saturday in Moore as crews worked to scrape clean the foundations of neighborhood homes destroyed May 20.
The plot at 601 SW 6 Street is a giant sand box now. Hunks of the concrete foundation jut out of a sandy pile on a corner of the property, the only evidence that this was once this family's home.
The little girls do not like loud noises.
On May 20, the girls heard a noise so horrifying it seemed to be from some other world.
They could not hear their parents shouting prayers. The girls did not make a sound. They linked arms.
“Don't let go of your sisters,” their mother recalled telling them.
Huddled in a bathtub together and wearing bike helmets, the sisters were unable to cover their ears because their arms were linked tight.
Their parents could only lean over the tub and shout prayers at the top of their lungs. The Kriesel parents couldn't hear their own voices.
“We just held on and prayed,” Amber Kriesel said.
The tornado made that terrible noise, and it took their home away.
Then it was over.
The twister left the bathtub, a toilet and the family alone. Everything else was gone.
“We're outside, and we're in my bathroom,” Amber Kriesel recalled thinking.
No, the sisters do not like loud noises these days.
Parents Amber and Nathaniel credit the hand of God from keeping the family on the ground while cars flew over their heads.
The tornado left the family with few material things, and yet it left them with the only things that really matter — their lives and their faith.
It also left letters.
Lost, then found
Rebecca Cooper grew up in Oklahoma City, but her career took her to Washington, D.C.
Now a reporter for ABC 7 News WJLA in the nation's capital, she arrived in Moore after the EF5 tornado struck. She and a cameraman were walking amid the destruction near Telephone Road and SW 6 when she saw a pile of letters and cards.
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.
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.