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Oklahoma tornadoes: Stories from the storm

Stories are told about the relief effort and survivors of Monday's deadly tornado in the Oklahoma City metro area.
Oklahoman Modified: May 23, 2013 at 9:39 pm •  Published: May 24, 2013

‘All our brothers and sisters'

Seattle Seahawks tackle and former Oklahoma State football player Russell Okung provided a helping hand to tornado victims.

A couple dozen members of NET Church in Oklahoma City brought two U-Haul trucks filled with supplies to First Baptist Church in Moore on Tuesday.

Pastor Joel Tudman, the assistant strength coach at OSU, said Okung donated $3,000 to help buy the supplies donated by NET Church.

Church volunteers unloaded water, baby formula and diapers, bathroom tissue and paper towels, gloves, granola bars, crackers and other necessities.

“These are all our brothers and sisters and there's a need,” said Tudman, 36. “And every church should respond. It's the least we can do.”

Stanley Coleman, 33, a U.S. Army veteran, said compassion drew him to the relief effort.

“We are the hands and feet for God, to demonstrate the compassion of Christ and to demonstrate it in a tangible way,” he said.


‘Those who can, do'

— Brett Hurley drove from Chickasha and set up his barbecue — fabricated to resemble a steam locomotive — in a parking lot.

The lot in front of the Home Depot, Target and Dick's Sporting Goods stores is a staging area for the cleanup effort west of Interstate 35 on SW 19 Street.

Hamburgers, hot dogs, chips, water, Gatorade and pop were free to anyone who needed a break.

Hurley, a welder who does oil field work, said he moved from Moore to south Oklahoma City just before the deadly May 3, 1999, tornado. He had friends who lost everything and needed a hand back then.

“Those who can, do,” Hurley said. “I'm lucky enough to be able to. The good Lord's been good to me.”

The Walmart in Chickasha donated $600 worth of supplies and Hurley said he spent $400 of his own money to fire up his grill and begin serving those in need.


‘Right over the top of us'

Melissa Brown and her daughters, Taylor and Ashlynn, and son, Corey, sat Tuesday in the University of Oklahoma's Couch Cafeteria, wearing OU campus life T-shirts and eating dining hall fare.

Although Brown's home was still standing after Monday's tornado, she couldn't get back to it after she left the neighborhood. She and her family stayed in emergency housing at OU after the storm.

Before the storm hit, Brown had pulled Ashlynn and Corey out of school. When she began hearing alerts, she cut the lock off a storm shelter at an unoccupied house nearby and rode out the storm with Ashlynn, Corey and several neighbors.

“It went right over the top of us,” she said.

Brown said she expected to be able to move back into her house as soon as she could get there and the power and water were turned back on. Until then, Brown appreciates OU's hospitality. So do her three children.

“I have three dedicated OU fans now,” she said.


‘Up to the sky'

— Tammy Honea pulled her son, Brandon, 12, out of Plaza Towers Elementary School about 11:30 a.m. Monday, hours before a tornado destroyed the school. She still isn't exactly sure why she did it, she said — she just wanted to surprise him.

Hours later, with the tornado bearing down, Brandon asked his mother to take him to his grandmother's house, where there was a storm shelter. The two spent about a half-hour in the shelter, and came out unharmed.

But the Honeas' home didn't survive the storm. Sitting in the University of Oklahoma's Couch Cafeteria on Thursday, Tammy Honea's husband, Lee, said he doubted the family would be able to return to the house.

The roof of the house collapsed right after the storm, he said, and after a few days of rain, the rest of the structure has sagged into a pile. Standing in the kitchen of the home is as good as being outside, he said.

“You can see up to the sky,” he said.


‘All that stress ...

just went away'

— Meghan Fife couldn't believe what she was hearing.

Wednesday afternoon, nearly 48 hours after a tornado leveled her house, her brother called to tell her that her dog, Ivan, had been found alive.

“All that stress I've been feeling the last couple of days just went away,” Fife said.

The bichon frise/cocker spaniel mix was hiding under a coffee table — scared, but otherwise in good health — when Kevin Fife, 19, found the pet.

Kevin Fife, who just graduated from Life Christian Academy, immediately called his sister, who had walked to a nearby drugstore while her siblings continued the search of where her house once stood near Santa Fe and SW 4.

“I ran all the way from 19th to the house, jumping over debris to get to him,” Meghan Fife said. “It was such a happy time.”

Fife had given up hope of finding her dog alive.

Monday night, Meghan Fife's roommate, Paige Holland, found Holland's cat buried under a dresser but couldn't find Ivan.

Tuesday, Meghan Fife spent the day going from one animal shelter to the next, hoping someone had picked up her dog.

By the fourth shelter, though, she lost hope. She planned on going back Wednesday, sure she'd find the dog, dead, in what once was her house.

“I just needed to know,” Meghan Fife said. “I'd already thought about where I wanted to bury him.”

Holland was home as the storm moved in, hunkering down in the bathtub until heeding a frantic text message from her mother to leave the house.

“I got out of there and two or three minutes later, it hit,” Holland said. “I'm just happy and grateful to be alive.”

Meghan Fife, Holland and their other roommate are staying with Meghan Fife's friend.

“We're crammed in here with two animals and four people but we're all happy,” Meghan Fife said. “Everybody is just so grateful we were able to find him alive.”


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