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Oklahoma tornadoes: The May 20 tornado took one couple's house, but couldn't touch their love

Curt Garrison, 45, called reuniting with his fiance after the storm “the best.”
by Adam Kemp Published: May 29, 2013

The second happiest moment of Curt Garrison's life is when he met Wei Lu.

Garrison, 45, said he was smitten with Lu, 29, when he met her while he was visiting his brother in Dalian, China.

He loved her sweet and simple nature, her deep love of family and friends, a shared mutual desire to travel the world and her thirst to learn as much as she could and teach it to others.

The happiest moment of Curt Garrison's life is when he saw Wei Lu emerge from the ruins of what used to be his home in Moore.

Garrison had run through the drill with Lu the night before May 20 after she saw towns in Shawnee and Carney smashed by tornadoes.

“I told her, two blocks down the street is a storm cellar or you need to get in my closet,” Garrison said. “Those were her two hiding spots. She remembered the closet.”

With the EF5 tornado plowing toward Garrison's house, which is across the street from Plaza Towers Elementary, Lu sat down in the closet with the sirens screaming and waited for the storm to come.

“The power went off several times before it came,” she said. “The windows all exploded and I heard the wind coming and the house just fell down on my body.”

Lu was a teacher at the same school as Garrison's brother. She was practicing her English when Garrison met her, and she was getting good at it.

Lu said she wanted to be able to speak well in case she ever got the chance to visit America.

Garrison told her he would practice with her.

The two would spend hours talking over the phone or video chatting after Garrison went back home to Moore. After almost a year of dating, Garrison asked Lu if she would marry him.

“She wanted what I wanted in life,” Garrison said. “I want to be around that person every day and travel with that person and just wake up happy with them every day. Everything I wanted in life I found on the other side of the world.”

While video chatting one night, Garrison popped the question and held the wedding ring up to the computer.

“She was pretty excited,” he said. “Life just took off from there.”

Her hiding spot was gone, the tornado decimated the walls and tossed a car on its roof just 10 yards from where Lu laid buried.

The couple's yellow lab puppy, Jin Di (Chinese for Golden Emperor), was nowhere to be found.

Lu could see a sliver of light after the world stopped turning and she crawled toward it.

“I saw a tiny hole in front of my body and I just began climbing out of it,” she said. “Luckily I wasn't big.”

Meanwhile, Garrison was blazing a path from work to get to Lu. He drove until the roads became impassable by debris. Large power line towers and bits of other homes blocked his way. He ran the rest of the way, about two miles in all.

“I don't know how you can put that into words,” he said. “I was pretty much sick to my stomach and I almost passed out when I saw the house was gone.”

But as Garrison walked closer, He saw Lu standing in the middle of a wasteland, surrounded by broken wooden beams and the remaining pipes of what was a walk-in shower.

“Seeing her standing there,” he said as his words caught in his throat. “The best.”

The couple spent the days after the tornado salvaging what they could; Jin Di was found alive and brought back to the couple by a neighbor.

The only thing missing from the wreckage was the paperwork for Lu's fiance visa, which permits a foreign citizen to travel to the United States and marry his or her U.S. citizen sponsor within 90 days of arrival.

Lu will have to go back to China and wait for her visa there. The couple's wedding will be delayed as they were only able to find half of Lu's papers in the rubble.

Despite the setback, Garrison said he's still excited to begin the second stage of his life. He's ready to marry Lu, to travel the world and wake up happy every day.

“Just a little setback,” he said. “She loves America, everything about it. Even to go through this and to still say she still loves it here. That's pretty good.”

by Adam Kemp
Enterprise Reporter
Adam Kemp is an enterprise reporter and videographer for the Oklahoman and Kemp grew up in Oklahoma City before attending Oklahoma State University. Kemp has interned for the Oklahoman, the Oklahoma Gazette and covered Oklahoma State...
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