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Rebuilt Plaza Towers Elementary in Moore prepares for first day of school

Administrators at Plaza Towers Elementary School, where seven children died when the May 20, 2013, tornado tore through Moore, gave a media tour Tuesday of the school’s new facilities. Students will begin filling the brand new classrooms when the school year starts on Aug. 19.
by Graham Lee Brewer Published: August 12, 2014

— In the front foyer of the new Plaza Towers Elementary School stands a chunk of brick wall painted with a growling panther named Paws, the school mascot.

Across the street, newly built homes stand next to stunted trees with no bark. In every direction, there are reminders of the May 20, 2013, tornado that destroyed the neighborhood and took the lives of seven children as they sought shelter in the school.

“We don’t want to be defined by May 20, but how we bounced back from it,” the school’s new principal, Patrick Chase, told media and guests Tuesday as he stood in front of the mural of Paws during a tour of the reconstructed school. “And this wall represents that.”

The wall was one of the last remaining structures left following the tornado.

The new school year starts Tuesday. Construction materials are scattered throughout the building as crews work to finish laying tile and painting, but the scene is a far cry from the piles of stone, metal and wood left behind after an EF5 tornado ravaged the area more than a year ago.

“This building is amazing,” said Caren Rickwalt, a fifth-grade teacher getting ready to start her first year at Plaza Towers. “It is the most beautiful building I have ever worked in.

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by Graham Lee Brewer
General Assignment/Breaking News Reporter
Graham Lee Brewer began his career as a journalist covering Oklahoma's vibrant music scene in 2006. After working as a public radio reporter for KGOU and then Oklahoma Watch, where he covered areas such as immigration and drug addiction, he went...
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