MOORE — In a drizzle under hastily erected bright lights, dozens of emergency workers searched into the night Monday for the missing children at the flattened Plaza Towers Elementary School.
“They're looking for life, but they have not had any hits recently, so they're in recovery mode now,” Gov. Mary Fallin said late Monday night after touring the devastation.
At one point early in the night, about 50 workers formed a line and passed rubble down from the school building that had become a twisted heap of bricks, blocks and iron.
The smell of gas was thick in the air.
Later, rescue dogs arrived and began sniffing through the debris. Then, the sound of jackhammers could be heard atop the rubble.
The governor confirmed that bodies of children had been found at the school. She also confirmed that bodies of adults had been found on the school lawn.
“They still aren't quite sure on the number of who might be missing,” Fallin said.
“There have actually been some adults that were found out in the field here. We're not sure if they're parents who came to pick up their children. And we're just not sure where some of the teachers and some of the schoolchildren are.”
Oklahoma County Commissioner Brian Maughan said, “This is by far and away the most catastrophic damage I've ever seen.”
The massive tornado that ripped through here Monday afternoon demolished homes, splintered trees and tossed cars upside down and on top of the ruined school.
Along its path, its powerful winds even ripped up the grass.
Early on, students emerged alive from the rubble. “It was coming. It was hitting. And everybody said, ‘Put your head down! Put your head down!' But some people got hurt,” one girl said in a TV interview.
But, as the hours passed in the search, stretchers went unused, and there was no need for the ambulances.
In the neighborhood around the school, people walked around openly crying. Some adults watching the rescue effort grumbled that the school did not have an adequate storm shelter.
One man talked of finding a baby's body in the rubble near a convenience store.
There was one small bit of good news Monday night.
Near the school, Saundra Knight and her husband dug for two hours in the rubble of their ruined house and found their 4-year-old dog, Clara, alive.
Everyone nearby cheered.
Andrew Knittle has covered state water issues, tribal concerns and major criminal proceedings during his career as an Oklahoma journalist. He has... read more ›