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Oklahoma tornadoes: Memorial takes shape outside Plaza Towers Elementary School in Moore

Visitors from across the country are leaving mementos along the fence outside Plaza Towers Elementary School in Moore, where seven students died during a tornado May 20.
BY CARRIE COPPERNOLL Staff Writer ccoppernoll@opubco.com Published: May 30, 2013
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— The neighborhood around Plaza Towers Elementary School is a wasteland.

The piles of wood and brick that used to be people's homes are now heaps of wet, rotting debris. Trees are stripped down to gnarly stumps that jut into the cloudy sky. Rows of houses that still stand are covered in blue tarps to keep out the rain.

But in one little place, everything is bright. It's clean.

Pinwheels whirled in the wind. American flags flapped. Teddy bears and stuffed cows and small paintings had been zip-tied to the temporary fence surrounding the school where seven third-graders died last week.

Julie Bobbitt tied a green T-shirt to the fence. She and co-workers had signed it.

“We don't want people to feel alone here,” said Bobbitt, who lives in Dallas. “We have to leave a little piece of us with you.”

Mementos were left by people from outside the state and outside the country. Two people from Wichita, Kan., left a rock with their names written in black marker.

A Plaza Towers teacher drove by to see the memorial. She'd heard someone had put up crosses.

“It's nice people can get to have something visual,” she said. She snapped a picture with her cellphone.

Eric Johnson came to see the memorial and his school where he rode out the storm with his first-grade class. The storm damaged his home, but a rainstorm is what caused the roof to collapse.

Eric clutched a Mickey Mouse doll that a Red Cross worker gave him. He paced slowly, his eyes pouring over all the things others had left behind in honor of him and his classmates. But he didn't look up to the wreckage behind the fence.